The words written and directed by Jim Jarmusch is enough to get cult film fans doing back handsprings. He is up there amongst their pantheons of icons. The fact that he is so beloved/respected in that community means that actors clamour to be in his film and with The Dead Don’t Die, a Jarmuschian version of a zombie movie, there is a ton of star power. So much star power that it, I am sure, would have attracted a very wide and varied audience. What else could you say about a ensemble cast which includes Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Selena Gomez, Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, RZA, Carol Kane, and Steve Buscemi? Other than “I’m in!”
Of course, because it is Jarmusch he kinda turns the whole zombie apocalypse genre on its ear. Plenty of funny. Especially towards the beginning of the film. The latter part is more traditional (though still not really) zombie flick with the living battling it out with the back to life dead.
It starts of totally as might have anticipated from Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Broken Flowers) rather slow and with just hints about what is to come. He and his cast seem to totally in on the joke that they are making a zombie movie. They are all dedicated to the material but there is a whole “we are having a ton of fun” side going on. Everything comes with a side order of tongue jammed firmly in cheek. This is managed without it becoming a full blown parody.
Then all the goodness that was cultivated in the first half goes for naught in the second half. Comes to a screeching halt. I think many watching were hoping that everyone was going to be turned by the zombies because they were suffering as they were watching. Totally painful! Good turns bad. There are a bunch of reasons why it all went to poop like the fact that a lot of the special effects were awful (probably due to lack of money) and things become predictable, plodding and formulaic. Cast tries hard though cannot save this rapidly sinking ship.
I did find myself wondering when oh when would we see a decline in the number of zombie movies. Over the past decade or so there have been so many new entires to the zombie series or film roster that it has totally worn me out. I grow tired and secretly wish the dead would stay dead.
Something in the small town of Centerville is not right. Really not right. The moon has descended quite low. The amount of daylight hours seems rather small. Animals are acting strange. Cell phones stop working. While others are puzzled it seems like only Ronnie Peterson (played by Adam Driver) has a handle on what is truly going on.
-Bill Murray: Zombie Hunting Action Star
-Behind the Scenes of The Dead Don’t Die