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Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)



I think that most horror fans were intrigued by the trailer for The Dead Don’t Die when it first dropped. There were a lot of familiar faces with both Oscar nominees and winners in the movie. It was odd to see a genre flick have this cast. I was even suspicious that it was all some sort of big joke. But it wasn’t and the movie was released. I watch a lot of bad independent zombie movies so why not this one?

Fracking has caused the planet to shift on its axis causing weird issues where the day lasts much longer as well as some other strange stuff. One of those things also happens to be that the dead come back to life. At least I think they must be zombies because they do shuffle around eating people. The radio and television reports make it seem like the world is ending and oddly enough our characters don’t seem to be too freaked out by that. Well except for Officer Mindy, played by Chloe Sevigny, who does have some concerns. Some more stuff happens and then there are aliens, and everyone dies. Except Hermit Bob who serves as the narrator at the end of the movie.

This movie is okay. It is trying hard to be weird and clever.  Early on it succeeds but after a while it seems forced. Bill Murray and Adam Driver have some very funny dialogue while sitting in the front seat of the police cruiser (Murry is the sheriff and Driver one of his deputies). Their delivery is very dry and kind of works for the scenes. They also break the fourth wall and talk about the script and the director randomly in the middle of the dialogue. I thought that was quirky and sort of fun. Again, I’m not totally sold on it, but I liked that this was something different. Tilda Swinton is fun to watch as the awkwardly strange undertaker who is fascinated with Samurai swords. Iggy Pop is also entertaining as the coffee loving zombie. Like I said though after a while the story seems to run out of gas and weird for the sake of weird is unable to sustain it.

There are some clever references to Romero’s work which I appreciated. There is a bit where Hermit Bob makes some comments about consumerism as well as some zombies who seem intent on finding their Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. Be warned the zombies here talk a bit. Selena Gomez’s character even drives a familiar car, which I sort of wish they didn’t mention in the dialogue and kept on the down low. There is also a monster obsessed character who runs a convivence store filled with Creepy Magazines and Ghoulardi stickers! That last one might only be fun for those of us who grew up in Northeast Ohio like the director Jim Jarmusch.

Iggy Pop makes for a good zombie!
So clearly there are some things that I really liked about this movie. But the biggest problem is how much it meanders thru the story. There are long stretches were the thing drags and is painfully slow. We get characters like the kids in the detention center that don’t seem to have a purpose at all. Even the Selena Gomez character and her friends only exist to drive the car in the movie. Well that and to make an excuse for the line about “Cleveland Hipsters”. The movie is over a hundred minutes long and could have used a bit of editing.

If you like a lot of gore in your zombie movies, and really who doesn’t, this isn’t the movie for you. The zombies are filled with black dust so not much going on there. There are a couple of moments of gut munching that is decent, but most of the good stuff happens off screen and/or is done with CGI. All of the zombies are very fresh even the ones that are dressed as if they have been dead for a very long time.

I feel like The Dead Don’t Die is a hipster zombie movie made by people who like the genre but maybe don’t understand it too well. All the things that horror fans are expecting to see just aren’t here. Then again maybe they weren’t making the movie for horror fans. But if they weren’t then are they making fun of us? I’m just not sure. In the end is this worth a look? I’d say maybe. Consider that a recommendation with ample warning.

 

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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