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Another Time Of The Living Dead: The Dead Don't Die

Updated on July 7, 2019


Strange occurrences are happening in the small community of Centerville, as well as in the surrounding area. These events may be happening as a result of polar fracking, which presumably has disturbed the earth's axis, creating wildly varying hours of daylight and darkness. In The Dead Don't Die, the police begin by checking into something less unusual. Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) reports the theft of a chicken. Police chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and officer Ronald Peterson (Adam Driver) think that the local homeless man they call Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) may be behind the disappearance, but evidence clears him. Shortly after that, Miller notices all of his livestock has disappeared, while others have watched their pets run away.

The first sign of the undead comes after sundown that night, when a pair of zombies accost and kill the employees of the town diner. When their bodies are discovered in the light of day, Ronnie tells Cliff he believes this is the work of zombies. The town's other officer, Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) also comes to the scene, but Cliff sends her to the station to wait for the local coroner to claim the body of an inmate who died in their jail cell. Others around the town speculate, prepare, and otherwise try and keep safe. Those people include gas station owner Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones), hardware shopkeeper Hank (Danny Glover), hotel owner Danny (Larry Fessenden) and his guests, and the juvenile inmates of the town correctional facility. Funeral home owner Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) even offers her assistance to the police as they realize they have just one way to stop the undead from overrunning Centerville.


The Dead Don't Die, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, is heavily influenced by the 1968 film Night Of The Living Dead. For example, viewers will hear the mention of the city of Latrobe by news reporter Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez). Both Latrobe and Centerville are communities in Pennsylvania, the setting of George A. Romero's famed horror film. Both directors used their stories as a way to speak about problems of the day. While Romero used his film to criticize the Vietnam War and racism, Jarmusch uses his film to bring attention to the environment and materialism. The prognosis for the world seems much more dire in The Dead Don't Die. Jarmusch uses the predicament to infuse the story with a dark sense of humor. However, Jarmusch overextends himself a bit with all of the story angles, which results in areas of underdevelopment. Still, I enjoyed the movie primarily because of its humor.

Murray and Driver deliver fine deadpan performances as they try with a world gone out of control. When they come upon the diner scene, Chief Robertson seems totally comfortable accepting Ronnie's theory. When the theory proves true, Murray uses the situation to let the undead know exactly how he felt about them. Driver, as Ronnie, shows he's all about killing the head as he works to stop the zombie threat. In one scene, he holds the severed head of a corpse of of a newly dead person to stop the change to zombie. Both he and Murray break character as they discuss how much the director has told them prior to shooting. Swinton is amusingly odd as Zelda, an eccentric who believes in death, but not necessarily dignity, as she applies entirely too nuch makeup to the bodies delivered to her business. She also shows proficiency with a samurai sword as she encounters a new valley of death. Carol Kane has an amusing cameo as Mallory O'Brien, an undead woman calling for her favorite drink. In addition to Waits, several singers from divergent genres make appearances, including Selena Gomez as a visitor to town, RZA as a wU-PS delivery driver, and Iggy Pop as one of the zombies who attacks the diner. Sturgill Simpson, who performs the movie's title track, appears as a corpse dragging a guitar with him.


Things seem bleak for anyone in any phase of life in The Dead Don't Die. The world has gone out of balance, and nothing anyone can do might not make any difference with regards to the planet's ultimate fate. The movie's inspiration is obvious, the scope is too large, and the bigger messages are veiled. The movie's saving grace, though, is its sense of humor, which can be subversive at times. The world has literally spun out of control, but the police and others have resolved to make a stand. The problem is their fight may have come too late.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Dead Don't Die three stars. The dead rise once again.

The Dead Don'r Die trailer

© 2019 Pat Mills


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