September 9, 2019  (Web Review)

The Dead Don’t Die

Universal, 105 min., R, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray: $34.98, Sept. 10

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Idiosyncratic filmmaker Jim Jarmusch assembled a star-studded cast—including Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Chloë Sevigny, and Tom Waits—for this fatalistic zombie comedy that carries an environmental message. In the small town of Centerville (population 738), news of “polar fracking” is causing some consternation. Electronic devices aren’t functioning properly, pets are running away, and the sun refuses to set. Could the Earth be thrown off its axis? “Somethin’ weird’s goin’ on,” says police officer Ronnie Peterson (Driver) to his laconic older partner Cliff Robertson (Murray). Which means the complaint lodged by a cranky farmer (Buscemi)—whose red baseball cap proclaims “Keep America White Again”—about a stolen chicken that implicates Hermit Bob (Waits) will soon be relegated to the back burner. And then the corpses start coming. At first, it’s just a couple of hands clawing out of the earth near a gravestone. Then two ravenous ghouls (Sara Driver, Iggy Pop), muttering “coffee,” chow down at the diner. Yearning for what they had in life, one (Carol Kane) chants “chardonnay”; others utter “wi-fi,” “Siri,” and “Xanax.” Everyone seems clueless about how to handle the deadpan dummies except Zelda (Swinton), the mysterious Scottish samurai warrior mortician. Unfortunately, instead of building characters, Jarmusch relies on cameos—RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan driving a Wu-PS truck, Rosie Perez as a TV anchor named Posie Juarez—along with loads of allusions to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Optional. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include the behind-the-scenes segments “Bill Murray: Zombie Hunting Action Star” (2 min.), “Stick Together” (3 min.), and the multi-part “Behind the Scenes of The Dead Don’t Die (6 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: a small extras package for a so-so zombie film satire.] (S. Granger)