The Dead Don’t Die: A Meta Zombie-Comedy

by Ben Martin

Love his style or hate it, writer/director Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive) is an original talent in cinema. If you aren’t familiar with his work, Jarmusch makes very deliberately paced pictures. His films flow much like odd conversations in real life do with pauses, non-verbal or otherwise, questioning looks, etc. As a result, the writer/director comedic ventures are chock-full of dry humor. While I do dig Jarmusch’s storytelling and filmmaking, I admittedly have to be in the mood for it. Well, I was certainly in the mood to see Jarmusch’s take on zombies. A subgenre that I otherwise burnt out on.

The Dead Don’t Die is the filmmaker’s meta approach to zombies. The movie takes place in the small, sedate town of Centerville. A place where every single resident knows the other and every person is settled into their daily routine. Alas, this routine living in Centerville is no longer such when the town soon finds itself amid an uprising of the undead. Now, three local sheriff officers: Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver), and Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny); along with mortician Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) are this little hamlet’s main line of defense.

I must say that I enjoyed this film more than I was expecting. Thanks to Jarmusch’s style, this zombie tale feels like it takes place in reality. (A feat that movies of this subgenre haven’t achieved since 2008’s little-seen Pontypool.) The Dead Don’t Die’s sense of small-town reality is bolstered by a fantastic cast all-around. All of whom seem like they were born to dispense Jarmusch’s dialogue with all of its incredibly dry humor perfectly seasoned in. Even better is the fact that all the characters in this movie feel as if they’ve all lived in the same place for years. This relationship quality, of course, enhances all of the comedy, and drama there is in this flick.
Due to its style, a sense of realism, and a few meta scenes, this movie feels original enough. But, as with most zombie movies, you know where it’s going; as do some of the movie’s characters. However, my only real disappointment with The Dead Don’t Die is that Jarmusch doesn’t utilize it as a delivery system for any new sociopolitical commentary. Instead, he makes some broad statements on the current divisive political climate of America; as well as our obsession with technology. Outside of those couple of things though, this film merely rehashes the sociopolitical commentary that the late-great George A. Romero originated with his masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead (1978). Despite that, and the fact that The Dead Don’t Die definitely won’t be to every horror or comedy fans liking, I would still recommend watching this picture.

The Dead Don’t Die is In Theaters Now!

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