Blu-ray Review: The Dead Don’t Die

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch | CAST: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Rosie Perez, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 10, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $18.70, Blu-ray $24.99
BONUSES: three featurettes
SPECS: R | 103 min. | Horror comedy | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video | Overall

Indie film pioneer Jim Jarmusch did quite well with his 2013 vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive. Seemed like Jarmusch’s trademark deadpan/hipster brand of ironic humor worked well with critics and avid fans in a genre film about a centuries-old love affair between Bohemian bloodsuckers Tilda Swinton (Suspiria) and Tom Hiddleston (I Saw the Light).

So, if it worked for the creatures of the night, why not those other creatures of the night: flesh-gnawing zombies. A sometimes direct salute to George A. Romero’s seminal 1968 ghoul-a-thon Night of the Living Dead, The Dead Don’t Die treads on some sacred horror movie ground, but doesn’t add much acreage to it. It’s a gory, goofy doodle from Jarmusch and his formidable troupe of frequent collaborators that works less than half the time.

Set in a small town called Centerviile, the film tells of three cops (Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloe Sevigny) who notice weird things happening around town, from electronic devices going on the fritz, to weird songs playing on the radio to strange behavior among the townspeople. Soon, customers and workers in and around the town’s one diner become part of an all-out zombie apocalypse, chomping on each other’s necks, brains and other body parts. Why? Something to do with “polar fracking.”

If the “polar fracking” reason for transforming townsfolk into hungry flesh-seeking monsters seems political, you’re right. Jarmusch has spiked The Dead Don’t Die with many political in-jokes and allegorical asides relating to the policies of the current administration. And while they add some spunk and, well, fangs to the proceedings, it’s not enough to make up for Jarmusch’s lazy script that leads to a WTF? throwaway finale.

Luckily, the cast is game, although not often handed enough to do in terms of witty lines or characters to develop. In addition to the Murray-Driver-Sevigny trio, there’s a dream cast of support from Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi (The Death of Stalin), Danny Glover (Sorry to Bother You), Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths), Rosie Perez (Small Apartments), Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers) and Carol Kane (The Sisters Brothers), none of whom are given enough to do.

The Dead Don’t Die is easily Jarmusch’s widest distributed film yet, opening in nearly 700 theaters in the early summer. The box-office topped off at an unspectacular $7 million, about half of the director’s 2005 Bill Murray starrer Broken Flowers. Reviews were mixed with Jarmusch followers happy see the filmmaker taking his acquired taste style of filmmaking in a new direction. Horror fans, on the other hand, mostly disliked the film, wishing the dead here had died long before the film was born.

Buy or Rent The Dead Don’t Die

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.