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The Dead Don't Die

Jun 23, 2019

Ghoulish and funny, this satire is also a pleasant introduction to zombie lore.

The Dead Don’t Die

Grade: B+

Director: Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise)

Screenplay: Jarmusch

Cast: Bill Murray (Ghostbusters), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 44 min

By: John DeSando

“Somethin’ weird’s goin’ on.” Ronnie (Adam Driver)

Zombie movies don’t die. Except that Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die is even more lasting than the most intrepid zombie. The slow, ironic pace and the dry responses of lead cops Cliff (Bill Murray) and Ronnie guarantee chuckles every few seconds and a leisurely stroll through a ghoulish genre.

While undoubtedly some audiences will not like the slow pace, I found it well suited to Jarmusch’s jaded view of slacker humanity, giving us time to savor the rich satire about acquisitive humans returning from the dead for their “stuff” like chardonnay and coffee.

Indeed, if there is any reason for zombie lore, it has to be lampooning their selfish, materialistic natures that feed of each other to keep alive to ransack stores for more “stuff.”

As to be expected, this kind of off-beat satire has its weaknesses, especially in character development where lead characters have no back story, and promising secondary roles like Steve Buscemi’s grumpy farmer have no room to strut their sardonic stuff. What we do get is Buscemi giving his patented acerbic misanthropy in small doses.

Other minor characters lend texture and humor. The nerdy owner of a weapons and comics store, Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones), is spot on for an eccentric denizen perfectly attuned to the bizarre activities. Zen samurai Zelda (Tilda Swinton) acts like she stepped right out of Uma Thurman’s castrating Kill Bill and into the same only with heads. She has a wickedly good swing.

Cannibalism even in comic form never really interests me, yet Jarmusch succeeds getting me interested in the lead characters and the thematic and figurative underpinnings of the zombie cineverse. For the hard-core zombie lovers, the theme has to be: “This is not going to end well.” (Ronnie) For the rest of us, the bible can parse some of the meaning: "And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them." ― Revelation 9:6 ESV

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com