THE DEAD DON’T DIE gets 3.5/10 The stench of decay

Directed Jim Jarmusch

Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tom Waits, Tilda Swinton


I don’t think I hate The Dead Don’t Die as a film, in fact it may be worse than that, I may actually pity it.  This is a rare misfire from the auteur of hipster cool, Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, Deadman). A tongue in cheek pseudoscientific cause, societal metaphor, genre references, even wacky extraterrestrial shenanigans (ala Plan Nine From Outer Space, or Phantasm), and a heavy dose of the meta-textual – the elements are all in place for this zom-com, but The Dead Don’t Die fails to coalesce into a meaningful whole.

As fracking at the Poles sends the earth off its axis, the natural order is disturbed. In the rural town of Centreville, Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) continue their patrols, but become increasingly concerned by the strange behaviours, missing creatures, and violent attacks. To Ronnie the cause is clear – zombies are walking the earth.

At the end of the day The Dead Don’t Die is too overstuffed, with those various elements either working against each other, or going nowhere. The apparently self-aware script is overused and under explained, the obvious social message is banged home with insufferable arrogance in the final narration, and the strange otherworldly elements lurch out of left field in a bamboozling manner. The Dead Don’t Die may be attempting to mimic the bewildering and ill conceived plots of many of the schlock zombie genre, but when the plot is this much of a mess, there’s something to be said for having too much fidelity to the source.

Which pretty much leaves the talent stranded. They’re the most enjoyable thing about The Dead Don’t Die, with Murray and Driver making a good pairing, despite having little to do. Both do what they can, Murray as the old-timer out of his depth, and Driver as the somewhat naive deputy that comes into his own in apocalyptic circumstances, but they also seem as aimless and without direction as the zombies. Tilda Swinton seems to relish the small part as the town’s new katanna wielding Buddhist mortician, milking every scene for all it’s worth, but even she can’t save this film.

The comedy occasional finds its target, but more often than not stumbles blindly, leaving viewers bewildered. A shambling mess of a film, by a talented director to be sure, but The Dead Can’t Die is ripe with the stench of decay.


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