Jim Jarmusch is a director known for covering a wide array of genres in his long career. Now he’s tackling something new, a zombie comedy. We’ve had a couple of great ones in the last 15 years of so, such as Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland.
Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die follows the people of the small town of Centerville over a few days of a zombie apocalypse, with particular focus on the local police force. The expansive ensemble cast covers a number of Jarmusch’s past collaborators, with actors such as Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny who the three officers on the local police force. Tilda Swinton plays the strange new local mortician, and the rest of the town are filled out by the likes of Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, and RZA. Selina Gomez plays one of a trio of youngsters coming through the town, while Tom Waits plays eccentric recluse Hermit Bob.
Honestly, none of these characters really have any arc through the film, no one undergoes any kind of personal growth. Instead Jarmusch wants to just focus on the interactions between everyone in order to bring out comedy. And the comedic tone that Jarmusch goes for in a very dry and deadpan one that verges into the absurd or meta at times. There are a few big laughs in the film, but not a lot. Instead The Dead Don’t Die is more content getting a regular chuckle, going for amusement over hilarity.
Which is a shame when the trailer promised something that could have at least lived up to Zombieland, but instead ends being a pleasant enough experience. The other big aspect of The Dead Don’t Die is that by choosing to make this comedy a zombie based one Jarmusch is entering a genre that has a long history of social commentary, from George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead right the way up until modern films like Train to Busan. And it’s not as if there isn’t any in The Dead Don’t Die, seeing the zombie head for and crave the things they consumed when they were alive is more than just a nice joke. But it is fat too on the nose, the film ends with Hermit Bob painstakingly explaining just what Jarmusch wants you to take from the film, without leaving it for you to dischipher for yourself.
Whilst The Dead Don’t Die doesn’t hit the heights I had hoped, its still a perfectly enjoyable zom-com, with a stellar cast that would be enough to make almost anything watchable, and Jarmusch manages to do better than that.