The Dead Don’t Die (2019) – movie review

On June 14th the most anticipated zombie movie of the year (alongside the upcoming Zombieland: Double Tap) will hit theatres around the world after its brief appearance at The Cannes Film Festival just one month ago. For once, Italy got the national release of a horror movie before the rest of the world, hence why this review of The Dead Don’t Die comes to you one day before the international release date. It goes without saying that, for that reason, this article will be 100% spoiler-free.

Written and directed by the talented Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die follows three police officers (played by Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny) in the small and peaceful town of Centerville, where suddenly the undead come back to life popping out of the graves of the local cemetery, Romero-style.

Besides an acclaimed director and a cast full of superstars (Murray, Driver, Sevegny, but also Tilda Swindon, Selena Gomez, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop and many, many more), The Dead Don’t Die also features plenty of references to the zombie genre, marketing itself as a zom-com.

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However, this is everything this movie has going for itself. Aside from fantastic and iconic actors, funny references and a few visual gags, The Dead Don’t Die is the definition of unspecial, flat and dull horror-comedy. In fact, it’s really hard for me to write something interesting about this flick, since it takes the typical template of zom-coms set in a small town and doesn’t do anything special or intriguing with it.

Take, for instance, three iconic zombie horror-comedies: The Return of the Living Dead (1985), Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009). These films took the clichés of the zombie genre and poked fun at it, all the while telling stories that are compelling and interesting: the silly gore in Return of the Living Dead, the jokes delivered through editing and visual storytelling in Shaun of the Dead, and the guideline-style narrative of Zombieland made those movies feel fresh, unique and memorable.

Yet, the three films I just mentioned had something called ‘character development’, which is completely absent in The Dead Don’t Die. Although the performances are all-around solid (Tilda Swindon, with her over-the-top acting and ridiculously Scottish accent, is a hoot!), there’s no single character that changes or develops throughout the 104-minute-long runtime. This is one of those flicks when you don’t see characters but only the actors playing them, which is obviously very distracting, let alone sign of lazy writing.

Perhaps the biggest issue with The Dead Don’t Die is that, once such a great cast was assembled, the filmmakers thought they didn’t need to do anything else: “people would go watch the movie due to its all-star cast and famous director, why should we put effort into the script or the visuals?”.

Also, for a zombie horror-comedy, The Dead Don’t Die feels extremely lifeless. Even less popular or less well-made zombie horror-comedies (such as Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Zombie Strippers) are insanely energetic, whereas The Dead Don’t Die feels completely flat, it doesn’t deliver the enthusiasm, the liveliness you’d expect from such a film.

This depends heavily on the visual presentation, which is flat and uncreative. Even though every technical aspect is very competent (from the score to the cinematography, from the camera-work to the sound design), nothing stands out as inventive, which makes the movie feel tiresome and stale.

Although The Dead Don’t Die might be the most disappointing horror movie of the year for me (which also depends on the justifiably high expectations I had), I would still suggest you watch it, as long as you’re okay with a mildly entertaining, mediocre horror-comedy about the undead. On the contrary, if you reckon that your taste in movies often aligns with mine or if you’d like to watch something original and somewhat unique, you would probably be fine if you skip this one.

The Dead Don’t Die                          5/10

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