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“The Dead Don’t Die” is a delightfully deadpan Zom-Com

by Daniel O'Connell The zombie genre has been one of the more popular subgenres of horror since its genesis with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Starting in the 2010s, there was a resurgence in popularity with the zombie genre, thanks to shows like The Walking Dead. However, the zombie genre has dimmed again in recent years thanks to the overabundance and of zombie media. People have gotten sick of tired of the same tropes in only slightly different packages and just want the genre to stay dead for good. Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (director of Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law, and Only Lovers Left Alive) has decided to challenge the stale zombie genre with his new comedy, The Dead Don’t Die.

A great ensemble cast with deadly dry humor

Image from IMDb
Taking place in the quiet little town of Centerville, it is one of the many towns in the USA that have been affected by polar fracking, which causes the Earth’s rotation to change. The change in the rotation causes the days to become longer. Cellphones and watches stop working, and animals begin to act strange. However, polar fracking has another more deadly side effect: The dead begin to rise from their graves and walk among the living. The entire town of Centerville has come under the siege of the zombies. Now the citizens of the town, including police chief Clifford Robertson (Bill Murray), and his deputies Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) must survive and combat against the undead. One of the strengths of the film is its ensemble of different characters. They’re all unique and, and they wouldn’t be out of place in a Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson movie. These range from ultra-conservative farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) to gas station attendant Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones). However, the real scene stealer of the movie is Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton). Zelda is the Scottish, Buddhist mortician of the town, who carries around a katana, and likes to practice makeup on cadavers. She’s easily the best character of the entire film and the movie could have really used more of her. What works so well with the film and makes it so unique would have to be Jarmusch’s trademark use of dry, offbeat humor. Almost everyone in the film delivers their lines in a casual, deadpan tone, usually underreacting to everything. This is best exemplified when Officer Ronnie comes across the scene of the first zombie attack. Rather than reacting with shock or horror, he reacts with a simple “Ew, gross." Jarmusch’s usual dry humor would normally be funny enough on its own. However, when juxtaposed against the zombie apocalypse of all things, the little touches make it hilarious.

A unique take on a classic concept

Image from IMDb
With zombies being a concept that has been done over and over again, this movie would have the potential to be cliché and tired. However, Jarmusch brings a different spin with his take on zombies. The zombies featured in this film harken back to the ones featured in the George A. Romero films. As with the usual depiction, they are slow with a pasty pallid look, clumsily lumbering around. They are also different because while these zombies still eat the living, they’re drawn to things that they wanted in their previous lives. These things range from coffee to candy and even WiFi. Rather than spilling out blood and guts when wounded, they pour out what looks like black powder. While these differences are small, they make them stand out in an oversaturated genre. I have praised the great aspects of this film, but it is not without its flaws. Despite it boasting that it has “the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled," most of the cast is rather underused. A lot of great actors are in this film, and some are assigned to rather minor roles. This includes RZA as a package delivery man, and Iggy Pop as a zombie who is particularly fond of coffee. These roles could have easily been expanded into something more meaningful in the film. Additionally, as stated earlier, the movie could use more of certain characters such as Zelda Winston or Frank Miller. Steve Buscemi makes the most out of his limited screen time and could have done much more with his role if he had more scenes to work with.
Images: IMDb Featured Image: IMDb

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