The Dead Don’t Die: Bill Murray zombie flick is dead on arrival


Chances are, you’ve seen trailers for The Dead Don’t Die, and it probably made you think, “Oh, good, a zombie comedy…like Zombieland!” That’s certainly what I thought I was going to see.

What I actually saw was a mildly amusing, incredibly slow movie with a stellar cast. Now, I have since read reviews touting it as “cerebral”, but I don’t really agree with that assessment. In the past, I have enjoyed slow, cerebral horror, such as Hereditary and The Witch, but The Dead Don’t Die just didn’t do it for me.

The best thing about The Dead Don’t Die is the killer cast. We have Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Carol Kane, Tom Waits and several other well-respected, talented actors, giving their usual great performances.

I also appreciated the novel special effects — when these zombies are beheaded or otherwise mauled, they emit black smoke instead of blood. It was a nice visual effect.

Murray, Driver and Sevigny play Cliff, Ronnie and Mindy, respectively. A trio of small-town cops in Centerville, where strange things are starting to happen. Ronnie and Cliff go out in the woods to check on Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) after Farmer Frank reports missing chickens.

The Dead Don’t Die – Courtesy Animal Kingdom

On the drive back into town, the two men comment on the fact that it’s still daylight, even though it’s after 8:00 p.m. Ronnie’s watch and cell phone have both stopped working, so something is up. And, as Ronnie keeps reminding us over and over throughout the movie, “This isn’t going to end well.” For the record, he was right!

For a film moving along as slowly as this one, there’s a lot going on. Eventually, most of the town become zombies, but these are different from our stereotypical Walking Dead-style zombies. Though they do eat flesh (and innards), they also mutter things like “Chardonnay”, “Wifi” and “Fashion.”

In addition to the wandering flesh eaters, it seems that most of the pets and farm animals in town have run off, polar fracking has thrown the earth off its axis, and there is a new undertaker in town. A trio of “hipsters” (led by Selena Gomez) is also passing through, but they decide to stay the night at the local motel (bad decision). And this is the way the story continues to meander on.

The Dead Don’t Die – Courtesy Animal Kingdom

The characters of Cliff and Ronnie are both completely deadpan throughout the movie, while Mindy is at least animated enough to freak out over the dead-ish bodies all over town. Tilda Swinton’s Scottish undertaker is a katana expert, which would definitely come in handy during a zombie takeover.

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Steve Buscemi’s Farmer Frank wears a red “Keep America White Again” hat, but has a friendly enough conversation with Danny Glover at the local diner, while the three hipsters don’t seem to serve any purpose. I was really annoyed by the random occasional breaking of the fourth wall and the multiple references to Sturgill Simpson’s song “The Dead Don’t Die.”

There are a couple of silly, childish plays on character names; Rosie Perez plays a new anchor named Posie Juarez, and Tilda Swinton’s character is named Zelda Winston. Rapper RZA (of The Wu-Tang Clan) has a cameo as a driver for a UPS-like company called WUPS. It just felt like The Dead Don’t Die didn’t really have its own identity, it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a comedy, a sci-fi movie or a social commentary on rampant consumerism (something that was already done to much better effect in George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).

To be fair, I have not seen any of writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s other films, so maybe he is just an acquired taste. But, my sister disliked this one too, and she adored Only Lovers Left Alive. Be that as it may, you have been warned.

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Did you think The Dead Don’t Die was a laugh riot? Or do you agree the film just fell flat? Let me know what you think in the comments section.