‘The Dead Don’t Die’ was directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Adam Driver and Bill Murry as two local police officers in the small town of Centerville, who are now facing an onslaught of Zombies. These Zombies (possibly linked to man-made polar fracking) are hungry, but not for brains, but for the thing they loved most when they were alive. In this quirky semi-self-aware film, you’ll need more than a suspension of disbelief to follow exactly what the director is trying to say in this funny, albeit flawed film.
I was very excited about this film, particularly due to the amazing roster of actors involved. As mentioned Driver and Murry are the central characters, however, included for supporting characters are Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, and more familiar faces. You’d assume that with actors as reputable as these are that this is a very strong story, and while I would say it is bold storytelling, it’s also fairly heavy-handed in its message, and a bit of a mess when it comes to the story.
The comedy, for the most part, was there, Driver and Murry have excellent chemistry together and they’re back and forth was by far the best part for me. It’s when the film delves into the sub-plots when you realize there isn’t really a focus or strong motive for what you’re watching. Some subplots feel like they were completely abandoned, or resolved in an unexplained, almost lazy way (particularly in Tilda Swinton and Selena Gomez’s arcs). You could completely omit some of the side stories and the movie wouldn’t change.
As for the Zombies? I love me a slow moving “classic Zombie” and they definitely delivered on that. The effects and make-up work were great, I really enjoyed how they chose to show the more gore-ish parts, where Driver and Murry’s characters are taking down Zombies left and right were highlights for me. The humor, though sometimes feels like an inside joke between the director and the cast, worked well especially paired with the dry humor with Driver and Murry.
‘The Dead Don’t Die’ no doubt has a message it’s trying to convey. The issue is how it treats it’s an audience when trying to tell the message, where more subtle films that know how to craft a story intertwined with a deeper message can come across as inspired and well designed, this to me felt heavy-handed, and like it didn’t trust it’s audience to come to the points it’s director is trying to make. The more the movie hits you over the head with their message, the entire story unravels to the point where you aren’t following along with anything in the plot. This is a film where if you walk out of the theater not understanding what you just watched, many ‘filmies’ will say “well, you just didn’t understand it”. Don’t let that sway your opinion though, as this is going to be a more divisive film because of the bold choices made by the director.
So is this a good ‘Zombie film’? Not really, is it a good slow paced film, also not so much. It meets somewhere in the middle. Not quite sure of what it wants to be which in the end, makes for a somewhat confusing time at the theaters.