Zombie movies very rarely attract my attention. I’ve seen the Romero classics and I love “Shaun of the Dead”. “Zombeavers” is also a great schlocky entry into the genre. I feel that a zombie movie needs to have a unique take in order to invigorate its audience. “The Dead Don’t Die” seems to offer its own interpretation and it’s a take that’s stuck with me.
Jim Jarmusch, the director, has made his films with a wry and irreverent sense of humor from the start. “The Dead Don’t Die” displays that trademark with all the characters who are trying to navigate the end of the world in this film. Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are the local cops in the small town of Centerville, which just so happens to be experiencing some odd goings on. Said goings on include wonky daylight cycles, missing animals and the rising of the dead, to name a few.
The cast includes delightful turns from Tilda Swinton as the new mortician with a “unique” personality, Steve Buscemi as a curmudgeonly farmer everyone hates and (my favorite) Tom Waits as Hermit Bob. Anytime Tom Waits is in a film, you can count me in. Jarmusch does a fantastic job with all the characters who populate Centerville, from tiny cameos to the supporting cast, and really makes each person sing when their on screen.
This film doesn’t necessarily live or die by its plot and feels much more like a character piece set against the backdrop of a dark comedy zombie flick. Bill Murray, as always, does a great job as a grumpy old guy and is perfectly balanced by Adam Driver’s sardonic wit throughout the film. Chloe Sevigny, the third officer in the Centerville police department, completes the main triptych and offers her own brand of wry humor.
Outside of the main characters, Jarmusch makes an effort to spend time with a variety of different citizens in Centerville. We’re taken on a nice trip through the town, a trip that really fleshes out a variety of different people before we see them being attacked by hordes of the undead. I thought it worked really well in ingratiating the audience to everyone we see on screen.
The film is not wall to wall action and that could be off-putting to some. Zombie action does present itself but it gets just as much screen time as the small cameo by the Wu-Tang’s RZA playing a Wu-PS delivery guy. (By far, that was my favorite gag in the film.) “The Dead Don’t Die” will grant you some samurai sword decapitations but you have to have the patience to see them. I was more than happy to wait but some may not agree.
Those seeking the same thrills on display in “The Walking Dead” will most likely be disappointed with “The Dead Don’t Die”. Headloppings are definitely on the menu but they take a back seat to meta humor and Tom Waits muttering to himself in the woods. If that sounds good to you, then give this film a shot. If it doesn’t, then this would just be a weird movie that has zombies in it.
But like I said, it’s got Tom Waits playing a hermit! What more could you want?
“The Dead Don’t Die” is now available digitally and will be released physically on September 10th. It is rated R.
3 out of 5 stars
Oscar Chavez Castaneda is the Montrose Daily Press’ film critic. Find out more about him on his website, oscarchavezcastaneda.com. He will review a movie new to theaters or a new DVD release every other week.