Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny
Director: Jim Jarmusch
The thing about experimenting in film is that it doesn’t always pay off the way we would expect it to. With a movie like The Dead Don’t Die, we see another attempt at blending the comedy and zombie genres into a single movie. While films like Zombieland successfully captured the essence of both genres, The Dead Don’t Die never quite hits its mark. While Swinton outperforms everyone in the movie, the commitment to meta humor and inability to decide what it wants to be prevent The Dead Don’t Die from ever reaching its full potential.
The film follows various characters in the small town of Centerville going about their normal lives and working their jobs. When a zombie outbreak starts to kill some of the townspeople, the survivors prepare for the fight of their lives to prevent themselves from falling to the same fate. Of the stacked cast, Swinton is the only one that really embraces her role and turns it into something special. All of the other actors tend to play it safe and not go the extra mile for this movie, but Swinton embraces the absurdity of the movie and lets her character run wild in the situation she’s been placed in. With a cast as loaded as this one is, it’s no surprise that someone would stand out and really take control of the movie, but it’s a shame that Swinton didn’t have more people competing for this spot as top performer. There’s no reason why someone like Murray or Driver couldn’t give her a run for her money, but no one comes close to delivering the way Swinton does. Moving on to the film’s humor, the direction of this movie was to make the characters incredibly self-aware that they’re in a movie and that zombie movies traditionally don’t end up working out for the main characters. At the beginning, this works out as the meta humor is unique and unanticipated and provides some laughs. The main issue is that this movie drags these jokes out to the point where it becomes difficult to listen to. By the end of the film, I was thinking to myself, “we get it, you know you’re in a movie. Try something else now.” It’s disappointing to see the movie end up in this pitfall as it’s lead by two incredibly funny actors in Murray and Driver but neither of them were given the proper material to ever truly shine. Ultimately, The Dead Don’t Die squanders an interesting concept and loaded cast on weak material that can’t possibly live up to the standards we were expecting. It really isn’t that bad, but it isn’t gory enough to satisfy horror fans and isn’t funny enough to work for comedy fans. This creates a state of limbo where the film can’t decide which avenue it wants to go down and ends up failing on both ends. It isn’t offensively bad and can serve as a decent piece of entertainment, but when I hear that a film is premiering at Cannes with a cast this loaded and an interesting concept, I know deep down there is a version of this movie that is more satisfying than the one we got.
Overall, The Dead Don’t Die had the chance to really be one of the sleeper hits of 2019, but instead it will be remembered as a mediocre attempt to do something unique that just never quite hit its mark. Based on the way this movie was promoted, I thought it would be funny enough to make up for the weak story, but what The Dead Don’t Die was to pick a lane and stick with it. That way we could at least recognize that it was strong in at least one area.
Overall Score: 4.5/10