The Dead Don't Die, Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, Broken Flowers), breathes new life into the popular zombie comedy genre. As polar fracking causes formerly dead people to rise up once again, a small town must defend itself from its former citizens, now bent on eating human flesh. There's no need to push any boundaries here, as an all-star cast supports a tried and true concept with a film that ends up better than average.
Jarmusch takes his love of the horror genre into the zombie realm for this go around. There are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments where the film references itself, along with a swath of other zombie films and pop culture references. Jarmusch appears to have as much fun creating a parody of the product as he is comfortable producing a quality film.
Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) brings a literal deadpan humor to the three-person police department of Centerville, the fictional small town where we lay our scene. His job consists of driving around, mostly after the fact, to try and piece together what has been killing the people that he's duty bound to protect.
Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) follows up the Chief's lead as another deadpan joker. The repetition of his line "this is going to end badly," becomes the theme of the movie.
Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) rounds out the trio as the "straight man" of the three, though her specialty could just be pointing out the obvious or chiming in when needed.
Focusing on these three police officers, who are essentially powerless to stop the end of their world, is either a brilliant jab at humanity in general to show us all that we're already zombies, or possibly just a plot device to string together a group of people being torn apart and eaten. While they strive to protect and serve, it feels like they are witnessing the downfall of humanity without an active role in stopping that process, leaving us with no clear hero to root for. Essentially, this lack of direction makes it unclear if this film is a really a zombie feature, or a collection of very dry zombie comedy shorts, loosely woven together.
Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) narrates as an eccentric living in the woods who also lends his musical talents to the soundtrack. Cameos for the quirky living and dead locals abound here, notably including Iggy Pop, Danny Glover and RZA, as well as Tilda Swinton with a thick Scottish brogue and Steve Buscemi playing farmer Frank Miller, wearing a red cap bearing the message "Make America White Again."
Overall The Dead Don't Die is a fun slice of cinema for most adult audiences. It's not too intellectual or preachy and despite its comic take on a world-ending scenario, it will deliver some solid bits of action appropriate for zombie fans. What it lacks in gross-out humor and barked one-liners, it more than makes up with bite.