‘The Dead Don’t Die’ Theatrical Review
Full disclosure, I have seen well over 73 zombie movies in my life time. I don’t know the exact number, but I wanted the place-holder number to be both big enough so you, the reader, would say “Wow! That’s a believably large amount of movies!” and non-conventional enough so your immediate reaction would be “Hey! That is a pretty precise number so this exercise in boasting is totally real and not at all made up!” Granted, I just gave away my endgame, but really your initial reaction was and still is all I care about. Anyway, I have seen a lot of zombie movies. I like them.
The first one, George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” should really still be considered the best, but since 1968 (and even including the pre-Romero zombie-esque, voodoo zombie, undead, bodysnatcher films) there have been a lot of really good zombie movies. There have been scary ones, gory ones, funny ones, outbreak ones, pornographic ones, technically not zombie but still considered zombie ones that the zombie purist circles rightfully scoff at ones aka I already mentioned outbreak ones so why I am retreading over something so frivolous ones, because I really hate the idea of the “fast” zombies ones as it really goes against one of the core aspects of what set zombies apart in terms of horror ones… noticeably 80s ones, extremely low-budget ones, and a whole host of animal related ones. I like a little bit about almost all of them. I was even part of a team that made one in film school. It was probably the second best one of all time, obviously… until Jim Jarmusch got in the game.
And with his work and the emergence of “The Dead Don’t Die” now “Brains Anonymous (Carrion Cut)” (go ahead, search for it on YouTube, I know you want to!) will only ever amount to maybe the third best zombie movie ever of all time ever.
Truthful self-aggrandizing aside, “The Dead Don’t Die” is absolutely incredible. See it as soon as possible. Go multiple times. Tell all your friends about it. Buy it for your family as presents for random days of the year. It is just such a good experience all around.
It’s laugh out loud (lol) funny in a way really only Jim Jarmusch can do. It’s self-aware in the most beautifully ironic (get it? Because zombies are not aware at all) way imaginable. It utilizes its absolutely stellar cast in a way that is as fun as it is perfect. Cinematically: brilliant. Paced: wonderfully. Scored: oh yeah! Edited: definitely. It just does the damn thing!
Basically, it is the same story as at least 227 other zombie movies. Small town -> everyone knows everyone -> some of the towns people are good-eccentric -> some of the towns people are bad-eccentric -> people from out of town -> mysterious deaths -> BOOM! Zombies! That’s it. That’s all it is. That’s all almost every zombie movie is except sometimes you interchange military testing with… oh wait, there was that too! This movie series had all the hits, and in the most stereotypical cliché ways. Name a zombie movie trope, I’ll wait…
YUP! “The Dead Don’t Die” had exactly that and did it way better than you could have imagined even if you were all-state on your high school’s “Co-Ed Imagination team.” This movie literally ham-fists you with every single theme and motif and sub-textual message you knew existed and did so in a way that left you a little less contrarian than you were before. We’ve all been there with movies. “I like this one because it subverted my expectations about what could happen in the genre!” I said with a squeamishly annoying pretentious drawl. Or, “I didn’t like this movie because it disrespects conventions in a way that is problematic” and blah blah blah I literally said something just like that in the second paragraph of this review. Terrible takes and humbling critiques. Snide inflections and self-congratulatory high praise. For centuries we’ve viewed films as artistic statements akin to the old masters.
But to me, this film just kind of looks you right in the face and says “Movies are dumb.” But… in a good way. Good in the same way that Marcel Duchamp said art is dumb with Dada. It’s really all just an exercise in deconstruction in the vein of Derrida. Like how Noisecore (I struggled with the exact genre of music I wanted to use to represent the idea of the absolute deconstruction of music. Vaporwave, True Norwegian Black Metal, Grindcore, and even most forms of math all would have sufficed) cemented how dumb music can be. This is not to say post-modernism hadn’t been brought to film before. But in the same way bringing absurdism across literary mediums doesn’t make “L’Étranger” by default any better than “Waiting for Godot,” just because it was first – just because David Lynch has done a lot of pretty cool things doesn’t mean Jim Jarmusch can do them in a new and exciting way. I mean, he really has been for a while, but this review is really only about his current work and not his entire body, so really, we don’t need to bring up how good “Dead Man” was with Johnny Depp, or how much I liked “Broken Flowers,” or even how groundbreaking “Permanent Vacation” was. That’s just me digressing for comedic effect, but also to paint the contextual picture a little before I find a way to reiterate that I liked the movie, it was good, and there were some pretty famous actors in it.
If you want to go see a good zombie movie, one that reminds you a little bit about how absurd it is that creative vehicles exist to transfer meaning socially from one body to another, see this one. It’s got Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, and even Selena Gomez just to name a few. It’s just a good damn ride.
To put it as succinctly as I can: they’re coming to get you, Barbara.
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.