Coming to theaters this Friday from writer/director Jim Jarmusch and Focus Features comes a tale of small-town living and the Earth with “The Dead Don’t Die.”
Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are the law of small town Centerville. Along with Officer Minerva Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), their day starts out with a check on Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) and a complaint by Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) about chickens.
On their trip back to the station, Chief Robertson has a feeling something isn’t quite right. Noticing that it is later in the day, it doesn’t look like the sun is going down. Then weird things begin to happen with watches and cellphones. That’s when Officer Peterson makes the ominus prediction that ‘this isn’t going to end well’.
There answer comes fairly quickly when news reports about fracking has finally done damage to the Earth. Back at the station, the three officers decide what should be done. Of course someone has to stay at the station since there is a corpse in one of the cells!
At the local coffee shop, the local gossip is about Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), who owns the funeral home. Everyone realizes there is something odd about her but it goes unchecked. Waitresses Fern (Eszter Balint) and Lily (Rosal Colon) are deep in talk when they are met by…well…hungry customers.
Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) owns the local comic book shop and sundries when he is visited by Zoe (Selena Gomez), Jack (Austin Butler) and Zack (Luke Sabbat). Everyone comments on the Sutrgill Simpson song “The Dead Don’t Die” and ask for directions to a local hotel.
All this while the Chief and Officer Ronnie are back at the diner wonder what to do about what they find. Hardware store owner Hank (Danny Glover) is in shock but also notices things aren’t right in Centerville.
Almost immediately it becomes clear that what is happening to the Earth has had an impact on those supposidly resting in peace at the local cemetary. The Chief and Ronnie begin to fight back, especially with Ronnie’s zombie knowledge.
Their small little town has one huge dead problem!
Murray as Chief Robertson is about as laid back as I would expect a small town lawman to be and exactly how I’d expect Bill Murray as a small town lawman to be! He takes things in and process it with a touch of disbelief as to what’s happening in his quaint community. Plus, and it must be said, anything Murray does will bring me to wherever he is in. The fact is Murray is an icon and a national treasure because he is…Bill Murray.
Okay, so I grew up watching him on Saturday Night Live in the days when comedy was hilarious and he provided much of that. He has made his way through comedy roles that just keep him relevant to all of us that love funny. Here he is seasoned but when he lands a line — it’s as smooth as ever.
Driver as Officer Ronnie is the side-kick that Chief Robertson needed to pull this whole thing off. It is interesting to see Driver do the give and take with Murray and it works to perfection making them such a unique and weirdly perfect team. If I were the Chief I might not have had the same patience but then again, the last ten minutes make it all worth it. Driver plays a man who is relatively calm. He feels that disaster is heading to town and loads up to protect and serve.
Sevigny as Officer Minerva is, well, emotional in her own way and in the context of the rest of the characters in the film. She is the third wheel of law enforcement but between wanting to hide in the back seat of the squad car and knowing something has to be done, she jumps back and forth with ease.
Buscemi as Farmer Miller is grumpy, loaded and hostile about his chickens. Glover as Hank melts right into the township of people who are a little confused by what’s going on and know hiding might be the way to survive. Jones as Bobby looks like he absolutely would own a comic book shop in the middle of Centerville and knows exactly what to do because of it.
The two odd and perfectly placed standouts of the film are Swinton as Zelda and I must say she is a woman I’d hang out with. Odd and out of place without realizing it, she has a part to play in all of this but then again does she? Waits as Hermit Bob is the man telling the tale of Centerville and might be the smartest Hermit ever.
Other cast include Rosie Perez as Posie Juarez, RZA as Dean, Alyssa App as Kid Zombie, Lorenzo Beronilla as Zelda Zombie, Sara Driver as Coffee Zombie, Carol Kane as Mallory O’Brien and Iggy Pop as the best Coffee Zombie ever!!
“The Dead Don’t Die” isn’t your typical zombie movie for so many reasons that I’ll let the viewer find out personally. What I can say is that I felt like I was watching a combination of a Film Festival piece and a Saturday Night Creature Feature film that was from the B-film vaults.
It is absolutely everything and absolutely nothing like any zombie movie you’ve ever seen. This film calls for those who love twisted films that are dry in humor yet still hilarious. It’s a journey through small town living with zombies as more of a pest than a reason to get all worked up.
This film has references from old horror films, a nod and feel of Romero and acting that is subdued and thoughtful wrapped up like bacon around a superb piece of filet mignon. The subtexts are there and its up to the viewer to catch them and it seems everyone in Hollywood wanted a piece of the film.
Of course I’m being vague in the telling on purpose because there is no right way to explain the film. This is one of those stories that must be experienced and with all honesty some will find it as hilarious as I did and some will walk away with that expression of ‘what did I just see?’ on their faces.
This is Jim Jamusch people! Writer and director of “Only Lovers Left Alive” (which is a beautiful vampire movie), “Broken Flowers,” and the documentary “Gimme Danger.” He has the ability to bring out the odd in his story telling but truth be known, some of us actually enjoy the odd.
The cast is varied and gives the town a little something special. Lets not forget the humor that is sharp, a bit biting at moments, very subtle in other moments which means there is something for everyone even if they don’t know they need it.
“The Dead Don’t Die” has me scratching my head, furrowing my brow in question, jaw dropping in action and most of all giggling like a little kid who feels like she got the joke no one else did. Who cares, I had a fun time.
In the end — this could be the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled!