The Dead Don't Die
the dead don't die | jim jarmusch | bill murray | adam driver | tom waits | zombie | zombies | comedy | fantasy | sweden | united states | chloe sevigny | steve buscemi | eszter balint | danny glover | maya delmont | taliyah whitaker | jahi di'allo winston
Film: The Dead Don’t Die
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tom Waits
This was a film that I was quite intrigued to check out as I’m a fan of the zombie genre and the cast looked quite amazing. I tried my hardest to avoid trailers, but I did end up seeing a few times here and there. I also got lucky to see it early thanks to a local podcast that does a recording at the theater monthly. The synopsis is the peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.
We start this with Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) heading out to the woods. They come up on the campsite of Hermit Bob (Tom Waits). He is accused of stealing a nearby farmer’s chicken. He also fires at the officers. They don’t bring him in, but just tell him to stop breaking the law. It appears he does this fairly often and they never bring him in.
On the way back, the two of them fill us in on the back-story. There is fracking going on at the North and South poles which is knocking the Earth off its axis. This is causing the days to run longer or shorter than they are supposed to as well as some electronic devices stopping. To keep it socially relevant, the current government administration doesn’t think it is causing any of this.
We are then introduced to the rest of the cast. There is another officer in the town, Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny). At the diner we meet the racist Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi). He’s the farmer who accused Hermit Bob and he has this film’s variation on the MAGA hat with Make America White Again. There is also Fern (Eszter Balint), the waitress, and Hank Thompson (Danny Glover).
Some other notables are Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones), who runs a gas station and novelty shop. Dean (RZA) who is a delivery driver; Danny Perkins (Larry Fessenden) runs the local motel and Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) who runs the mortuary. Coming into town as things take a turn is Zoe (Selena Gomez) as well as her two friends.
Things take a turn when two zombies raise from the local cemetery. They are Sara Driver and Iggy Pop. They go to the local diner and kill the two people still remaining there. Hermit Bob knows there is something going wrong and is monitoring it from the woods. Ronnie immediately thinks it is zombies, but the rest of the cast is wondering if it is wild animals. The dead aren’t done yet though as this film takes quite the crazy turns.
As I tend to do with most newer films, I like to keep the recap as vague as possible to avoid spoilers. With that out of the way, the showing that I attended I’m probably in the minority that didn’t love this film. As a zombie film fan, it does do some good things, which I do love the fact that the zombies move like Romero zombies. They even reference Night of the Living Dead through a poster, button and even the car that Zoe is driving. I’m a sucker for good writing and paying homage to films that paved the way for you to get where we are today. I actually love Bobby in the fact that he has such film knowledge and the items he has in his store as well. I had a couple of major issues though.
The first one I have with this film though is that it is a bit on the nose with things. This is clearly being a social satire. I wish they would have pulled the reigns back as it went too blunt for my liking. If you are a Trump supporter, you are probably not going to like some aspects of the film. There are definitely some shots fired at him, his administration and those that support him. I personally do not and without going too political, but this definitely calls out some things and even I would prefer to go a little bit more subtle.
The other thing that I wasn’t the biggest fan of was how meta the film is. I would have actually preferred it to be more like Shaun of the Dead where we get what it is doing, but that again it isn’t so much on the nose. Within the first 10 minutes, Ronnie admits that this is a movie and that took me out of it. This gets harkened back to as well.
This film did make me laugh out a few times. That goes with saying that not all of the comedy landed with me though. I actually really enjoyed bringing the concept from my favorite horror film Dawn of the Dead and a bit of Day of the Dead in that zombies retain some memory so they go to what they loved to do before they died. I wasn’t a fan of the repetitive jokes we got as it got overplayed for me.
There was also a bit of a pacing issue for me. I thought it did a great job of establishing the town, where we will be at and the characters themselves. We then get the first two zombies at the end of the first act. The problem then becomes a ton of jokes and hardly any zombies for a long stretch. I will give the film that the climax has a lot going on which I dug, but I did just find myself bored for an extended stretch. I wasn’t the biggest fan of a few things in the ending, but in the grand scheme it fit the film and was fine. There were some things I found to be predictable.
Something that I can’t hate on was the acting. Murray wasn’t at his best, but he definitely gave us a solid performance. With his abilities, this is better than most. Driver was really good as well. He is interesting to me that he is good actor in normal films and in comedies as well. He just has the timing down. Waits was solid in his role. He had some low key comedy I can get behind. Sevigny was solid as was Buscemi, Glover, Jones and the rest of the cast. It would take up a lot but no one turned in a bad performance and they definitely carried the film.
The other best part of the film was the effects. I thought the look of the zombies was really good. The make-up on them made them look really creepy. I thought the blood and gore that we got was good as well. It definitely seemed to be done practically, which as you know I’m a huge fan of. There was some CGI, especially with wounds inflicted on zombies as well as with this soot like material that comes out of them. I didn’t really have any issues there. It wasn’t my favorite, but it looked fine. The film was shot beautifully as well.
The final thing to cover before wrapping this up would be the soundtrack. They really hammer home the theme song of the film, probably partially because the singer also makes a cameo as a zombie. I didn’t care for the song, as it isn’t my genre. The rest of the score doesn’t hurt the film, but it also didn’t stick out to me either.
Now with that said, I didn’t love this film. While writing this, my score came up higher than I was originally thinking of going. I do think this is an above average zombie film. The zombies themselves look great and the wounds they inflict are as well. The film really does have some social commentary, which I normally love, but I just think that they went a bit too on the nose. Comedy for a film was a bit repetitive, but it did make laugh. Acting was great for the film. For me the pacing was a bit off and that did hurt it. Practical effects looked great while the CGI was fine. The soundtrack wasn’t for me, but it didn’t hurt the film. Overall I’d say this film wasn’t great, but it is entertaining for sure.
My Rating: 7 out of 10