Review: THE DEAD DON’T DIE Is A Quirky Deadpan Zombie Comedy With A Ton Of Life

(L to R) Bill Murray as "Officer Cliff Robertson", Chloë Sevigny as "Officer Minerva Morrison" and Adam Driver as "Officer Ronald Peterson" in writer/director Jim Jarmusch's THE DEAD DON'T DIE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Abbot Genser / Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.

The Dead Don’t Die is a new horror-comedy film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and featuring an ensemble cast led by Adam Driver and Bill Murray. The movie is about a peaceful town that is turned to chaos as the dead rise from their graves and descend on the townspeople. It debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

The core story of this film is a relatively standard survive-the-night zombie movie. That being said, the plot is simply a device used by Jarmusch to deliver his interesting and profound commentary on the state of modern society. His main purpose is to get you to think, so he allows the film to go in crazy (and amusing) directions that are hugely risky and, arguably, pay off.

The movie’s main theme is consumerism, and Jarmusch does an excellent job of addressing this topic in a creative and effective way. Although a monologue at the end of the film does go perhaps a bit too far in making his message obvious, it is nonetheless an important message that needs to be heard.

Additionally, the movie is quite enjoyable because of the witty sense of humor that runs throughout it. If you are not a fan of deadpan comedy, this is a film you will want to avoid, because it is aggressively and unabashedly dry with its jokes. The niche audience to which this movie will appeal will be rolling in the aisle in laughter, but general audiences could find it to be insufficient to entertain them.

Tilda Swinton stars as “Zelda Winston” in writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s THE DEAD DON’T DIE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Frederick Elmes / Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.

Some may be put off by the fact that the characters are relatively flat and underdeveloped. However, this seems to be an entirely intentional move by Jarmusch, tying into the overall commentary on the film. The human characters don’t have much more depth than the zombies, which is really the point that he is making.

The ensemble that was assembled for this movie is massive and extremely talented. Jarmusch pulls both familiar faces with whom he has worked before and new additions to his cast. Murray and Driver are both hilarious and have great chemistry together. They could really do anything on screen together and it would be funny. Tilda Swinton gives an uproarious turn too, perhaps one of the most fun of her career yet. Other standouts in the supporting cast include Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, and of course, Tom Waits, but there really isn’t a weak link to be seen.

The film was also quite impressive on a technical level. The look of the movie is great, offering a wonderful throwback to the classic zombie movies of the 70’s and 80’s. The cinematography is excellent, with a bunch of great shots and surprisingly effective use of slow motion. Additionally, the visual effects are quite strong, especially for a non-studio horror film.

Overall, The Dead Don’t Die was an intelligent and entertaining horror-comedy. It definitely won’t work for everyone, and honestly probably won’t work for most, but it does have the goods to bring life back into the horror-comedy genre.

The Dead Don’t Die opens in theaters on June 14.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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