This was very much a different type of zombie movie, one that I was not expecting. Certainly, with Bill Murray as the lead, I knew that we were in store for a humorous take on the genre, but I had no idea what I was about to see.
Writer/director Jim Jarmusch is known for his slow take on some of his films and that style is in full display here. The story slowly moves through the movie as characters talk about life and, at times, barely even recognize what is happening around them.
The small town of Centerville finds itself with strange events happening. The daylight is staying longer, the moon has a strange glow and the dead are rising from the grave. All of this because the earth has shifted slightly off its axis because of polar fracking.
Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) respond to the terrible happenings in the town. Murray and Driver are as deadpan as you can get, as Driver constantly says that “this won’t end well.”
Meanwhile, we are introduced to a bunch of characters from around Centerville, some of who are important and others whose story arc does not seem to go anywhere. The cast is tremendous as, along with Murray and Driver, you have Tom Waits, Chloe Sevigny, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Rosie Perez, Selena Gomez and Carole Kane.
Of course, some of these actors play characters without any connection to the story at all. Tilda Swinton is amazing here, but her arc is bizarre. It was very funny, and at least she did interact with the main actors. There are a group of young actors playing kids in a children’s detention center who literally have nothing to do with the plot.
Some times that is funny and works and other times it feels kind of lazy, as if they are just filling up screen time with scenes. There is a definite irreverence on display inside the film and that fits into the tone.
I loved the work between Murray and Driver. The had a wonderful connection in the movie. Their responses to one another was perfect and fit beautifully with the tone that Jarmusch was going for. Both Murray and Driver were veterans of Jarmusch movies and that experience pays off royally here.
I got a feeling watching The Dead Don’t Die that reminded me clearly of Twin Peaks. It was a show that was filled with eccentric, bordering on weird characters, who found themselves in strange and unexplained situations. The Dead Don’t Die would be an episode of Twin Peaks, but with zombies. There was even a zombie who loved coffee. Of course, as a huge Peak Freak, I would love that and I enjoyed this movie a great deal.
Sure, some of the characters are unnecessary, but they help create a flavor of the town of Centerville. The message of the movie is pretty heavy handed and could have been more subtle, but that does not dominate the movie and does not ruin the enjoyment I had.