Review by Lauryn Angel
It’s hard to explain just why I loved The Dead Don’t Die, Jim Jarmusch’s homage to the classic zombie flick. The trailers give the impression that it’s a zom-com – and it is, but first and foremost it’s a Jim Jarmusch film, which many viewers may not be prepared for.
Set in Centerville, Pennsylvania, the film follows Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) as they investigate mysterious deaths, eventually figuring out that the cause is zombies. With the assistance of Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) and the town’s new mortician, Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton with an amusing Scottish accent), they battle to save the town from the undead, in spite of Ronnie’s repeated claim that things will end badly.
The cast is rounded out by Tom Waits as the philosophical Hermit Bob, Danny Glover as local Hank Thompson, and Steve Buscemi as the Trump-loving Farmer Miller. And there are several small roles with familiar faces – Iggy Pop, Sturgill Simpson, and Carol Kane appear as zombies, RZA as a Wu-PS delivery driver, and Selena Gomez as a teenager passing through town, driving a car that should be familiar to fans of zombie films.
A lot of the humor in the film comes from the deadpan delivery of the performers and the absurd situations they find themselves in. Then there are the pop culture references – not just to zombie films – both subtle and overt. It’s the kind of humor that either you get or you don’t. And then there’s the politics – the zombie apocalypse in this case is caused by climate change, for example – that some may find off-putting. The Dead Don’t Die is truly a niche film. Jarmusch fans should love it, as should those who appreciate absurdist humor. But it’s definitely not for mainstream audiences.