Review: THE DEAD DON’T DIE

By Josh Muchly

I really, really wanted to like this movie. But, I just didn’t.

Upshot: The peaceful Midwest town of Centerville finds itself infested by a zombie horde; as the dead start rising from their graves, three local police officers find themselves on the front-lines of the invasion.

High-point: The commentary. Some sort of polar fracking leads to a change in the Earth’s axis, which somehow causes the dead to rise — and hunt. Zombies, therefore, are a metaphor for the effects off Climate Change: the death of the planet, and by extension, the death of humanity.

Low-point: The energy. For a movie about the perils of Climate Change, there wasn’t much concern. One could make the argument that there’s a simplicity which is part of the film’s message: “It’s not difficult to understand! Once Climate Change takes it toll, the consequences will be irreversible.” But, yeah, I’m not really confident making that argument.

Rundown: I do, however, hesitate to criticize THE DEAD DON’T DIE too harshly. I question myself: “Did I miss something? Surely, there must be more to it.” I think I really, really wanted to like this movie. But, I just didn’t.

As a general rule, I’m a fan of Jim Jarmusch. The problem is THE DEAD DON’t DIE feels like a by-the-numbers zombie flick. Critics can get things wrong sometimes, and I’m open to being wrong about this film’s longevity. After all, who can be unhappy with Adam Driver and Bill Murray on the screen? Not I, to be sure. And who could deny Tilda Swinton’s appeal? Never this critic.

And some moments, I must say, did make me laugh-out-loud.  One scene — where Tilda Swinton’s Zelda (an aptly named character!) doesn’t quite realize what’s happening when a couple of corpses start to reanimate — is particularly hilarious. I didn’t quite get the payoff that I needed with this character though.

There was also a humorous gag regarding the MAGA hat: Steve Buscemi’s redneck character wears a red hat that reads “Keep America White Again” which was clever. But, 10 great minutes out of 90 isn’t a high bar.

Overall, this film isn’t as funny as SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) or ZOMBIELAND (2009), and is unsatisfying in terms of the gore. Plus, as far as the Climate Change element, this film is light on alarm, especially compared to FIRST REFORMED (2018) or even MOTHER! (2017) for that matter.

The one silver-lining I can spot is that, perhaps, Jarmusch is adding to his talent stack by making films with wider appeal. That’s probably a good thing.

Muchly Scale: 5 out of  7

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