{Movie Review} The Dead Don’t Die (2019): Directed by Jim Jarmusch

The Dead Don’t Die

Jim Jarmusch (Screenplay) • Jim Jarmusch (Director) • Focus Features

Reviewed By A.S. MacKenzie

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought, “Yeah, it has Bill Murray. I’m in.” That’s because that is what you do when Bill Murray is in something, You watch it. If you don’t watch it, well, I don’t know what happens because I have watched everything he’s ever been in that I have the capability to see. But, I bet it’s something bad. Yeah, probably something bad happens when you don’t watch him. So, I guess I could skip to the end of this review and just say, “Don’t let something bad happen to you because you didn’t watch Bill Murray.” But, I digress and will go ahead with the review in the thought that maybe you like to be reminded why you should watch things with Bill Murray. Here goes.

Bill Murray and Adam Driver play cops in the small town of Centerville, population just shy of 800. There is an additional officer played by Chloë Sevigny, that we meet later. It opens on our two trying to talk with Hermit Bob, played by Tom Waits, about some missing chickens but the talk doesn’t go well so they leave. So begins the slow (but not bad) introduction to this film. In the first third, we meet the cast of characters played by such names as Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Tilda Swinton, RZA, Iggy Pop, and Selena Gomez. All with unusual quirks and characterizations. Tilda Swinton is a Scottish undertaker with katana sword skills. Steve Buschemi is a racist farmer. RZA is a driver for WU-PS delivery. Selena Gomez and her friends are outgoing travellers. It’s a menagerie of characters and they all fit together.

The story of how the zombies rose is a satirical look at our own current world. The radio plays the interview with the Department of Energy’s Secretary who states that the reports of polar fracking causing the earth to tilt out of alignment and damage everything irreversibly are just false. But, the sun stays up past 9pm and all the birds and animals leave the area, so something is happening to the earth. The first zombies, Iggy Pop and Sara Driver, pop out of their graves and find two victims in the local diner, along with some coffee because as it turns out, zombies crave what they craved in life.

As the story progresses, which to be honest, is more about a series of events than an actual storyline, but again, it’s not bad…where was I? Right, the “story” well zombies quickly take over the town, eating their way through the inhabitants, and the three cops need to figure out what to do. With the help of Tilda Swinton to watch the station, they set out in their cruiser to make a plan. Meanwhile, the town succumbs to more and more zombies, each showing some single character trait they had in life. It’s a mess of a thing, yet, I couldn’t stop watching.

When films have moments of meta-awareness, where they know it’s a film, it can be a good thing or a jarring thing. This is both. We don’t know why there are brief moments of the characters knowing it’s a film so it’s a little jarring, but it works because it brought some welcome humor to a couple scenes. There are countless references to other zombie films and moviemakers, most notably in the form of the car Selena Gomez drives (Night of the Living Dead fans will immediately recognize it). But the one thread that carries throughout is the song, “The Dead Don’t Die” by Sturgill Simpson. A real artist, with that real song, who cameos as a real zombie. It plays throughout and is mentioned often.

When I tried to describe the film to someone I said, “Imagine Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson sat down with someone and gave them notes on their favorite signature moves, then that person forgot most of it but tried to remember as they went along.” That is this film. Is it something everyone will enjoy? No, not even close. Some will hate it, some already do, and some will love it with all their heart. I’m in the latter camp. I don’t know what it was about the mix of cinematography, acting, dialogue, situations, or what but it struck every chord true with me. I loved it. There’s a scene with Adam Driver and his convertible smart car that I will probably play on loop and turn into a GIF just because I loved it. Someone else may never see the joy I see in it, but that’s OK. That is what this movie is OK with. You can hate it and it is fine, or you can love it, and that is fine, too. Either way, you can’t argue the fact that you’ve never seen another one like it.

The Dead Don’t Die

In the sleepy small town of Centerville, something is not quite right. The moon hangs large and low in the sky, the hours of daylight are becoming unpredictable, and animals are beginning to exhibit unusual behaviors. News reports are scary, and scientists are concerned, but no one foresees the strangest and most dangerous repercussion that will soon start plaguing Centerville: the dead rise from their graves and feast on the living, and the citizens must battle to survive.

A. S. MacKenzie

A. S. MacKenzie is an Atlanta based author who loves all things books, movies, games, and comics. He lives with his wife, spoiled dogs, and an unhealthy obsession with building things. He can be found building worlds in books, building plastic models, or building with wood. Check out his website at asmackenzie.com for ways to join his newsletter and read free stories. Also, he’s been known to frequent Twitter (@a_s_mackenzie) to say something vaguely interesting and Instagram (a.s.mackenzie) for food, travel, and random pics.

Ice Where There Was None

A block of ice in a Florida park. A victim posed inside. 
The first officers on the scene struggle to maintain the melting evidence. 
Then it happens again. 
…and again….and again…
While the officers wonder why they are always the first on scene, their department begins to wonder the same.

You can claim a copy of Ice Where There Was None via A.S. MacKenzie’s library

1 Comment

  1. I wanted to see this, but then I read a ton of terrible reviews. Your reviews has restored my faith in it, and therefore I will buy it soon.

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