Remember when zombie movies were a popular thing? When The Walking Dead was the show that everyone watched, and people were preparing for a zombie apocalypse in real life? Those days are gone now, and it will really take something different for a zombie movie to be a hit. Now, we have The Dead Don’t Die being released which promises to be both scary and funny. Can it bring back the zombie subgenre? Not with this direction. I haven’t seen a genre film this dull and self-indulgent in such a long time. Those who are looking for the next Sean of the Dead be warned, this film is atrocious.
The Dead Don’t Die is about a small-town name Centersville and its citizens. When the Earth stops spinning on its axis due to polar fracking, things begin to get weird and the town falls into a slow chaos. Oh, also there are zombies running amok. This film has an interesting setup on paper. Making zombies come to life due to an environmental situation is something I have not seen before. With an extremely talented cast and an accomplished filmmaker, how did it all go so wrong? Well, what it comes down to, it seems, is a lack of direction. This film had no idea what it wanted to be. Does it want to be dark comedy? Does it want to be horror? It could’ve been both, but they never found a way for it to integrate successfully. The result ends up being that this film is just boring. Clocking in at and 1 hour 45 minutes, this film felt like a 4-hour slog. I was afraid it was never going to end. A zombie comedy should fly by and make you never want it to end like Zombieland, but this film was just abysmal.
What The Dead Don’t Die has as its biggest problem is the directing. Jim Jarmusch is the director of this film and it feels as if this is his Mother! Like Darren Aronofsky. The film is completely in love with itself and forgets to convince the audience to love it as well. Jim Jarmusch had an idea that he thought would be funny and it’s as if no one told him that his jokes aren’t working. It is like a comedian bombing on stage or Michael Bay trying to put humor in his films. It doesn’t work! The direction however is what kills this film. Every actor is instructed to be joyless and lifeless with no personality or purpose. They are all just wooden cutouts that stand there and read lines. Bill Murray, one of the greatest comedic actors of this generation, is so humorless that you wonder if they just got a Bill Murray lookalike and gave him the same name. The characters are indistinguishable from each other and if you switched the actor’s roles with one-another, nothing would change. There are also continuity errors that nobody seemed to catch. It is established that phones have just stopped working in this town and a couple scenes later, someone calls the police station no problem. Same thing with the conditions of the sun and moon. Nothing is explained or makes sense and it is frustrating.
The only redeeming qualities of this film are Tilda Swinton and Adam Driver. They aren’t instructed to do anything differently from the rest of the characters, they just decide to make the most of it and change things up. Adam Driver’s whole gag is that he knows he is in a movie and breaks the fourth wall a couple times. This leads to a great moment with Bill Murray towards the end where they come to an understanding. Adam plays the part well and understands the movie Jim had in mind, so he makes the most of it. He even pokes fun at himself. Tilda Swinton on the other hand embraces the weirdness. Is there anyone better at playing weird than Tilda Swinton? Maybe Jason Schwartzman, but Tilda is certainly in the conversation. Here she is a coroner who decorates dead bodies and is also a samurai. She feels like she is in a different movie, a movie I’d much rather be watching and she is terrific in it. If not for these two, the movie would be unwatchable.
The Dead Don’t Die is a boring, narcissistic tread of a film that is so in love with itself it would marry if it could. It wreaks of self-indulgence and made me want to puke. It is the type of filmmaking audiences hate, because it presents itself as unusual art but instead is just a splatter of gray colors. There are two redeeming qualities in Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton, but they are not enough to save it. You are better served watching Zombieland or Sean of the Dead again.
The Verdict: 2/5 Stars