In the peaceful town of Centerville, “a real nice place,” the undead cause the unexpected. When the earth is thrown off of its axis because of polar fracking, the world is thrust into the zombie apocalypse.
Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Tilda Swinton headline this comedic cast in a Jim Jarmusch zombie flick that depicts the ghouls in a gruesome, graphic way. But subtle (then not-so-subtle) breaks of the fourth wall, hysterically dry lines and downright “what is going on?” moments keep the movie as light as a zombie movie can be.
Driver, Murray and Sevigny portray Centerville police officers that are tasked with keeping the town safe from the undead. Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) is an intelligent, rational and sympathetic officer that has his fair share of emotional outbursts. Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) is perhaps the most collected protagonist, content in the apocalypse ending badly who also provides deadpan and dry comic relief.
Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) embodies how any civilian would act in the face of this kind of danger. She’s grossed out, always on the verge of tears and eventually succumbs to emotion when she joins her zombified grandmother to become undead.
Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), the new owner of Centerville’s funeral home, is a samurai-wielding warrior that casually fights off the zombies that she needs to but then retreats to her alien spaceship in the end. An alien spaceship is just one of the several “what is going on?” moments in the film.
“The Dead Don’t Die” features one of the freakiest portrayals of the undead. On the surface, they looked as stereotypical zombies usually look. Green skin-toned, lame-limbed and mumble-mouthed, the ghouls looked as zombies are usually pictured. The R rating becomes a factor, though, when the true nature of the undead is shown: the cannibalistic attacks on living humans. This aspect of the film is definitely not for those with a weak stomach; there is no lack of blood and entrails.
Jarmusch, known for casting Adam Driver in his films, made another stellar choice in Driver for his role. Ronnie’s dry one-liners, like “I’m thinkin’ zombies” and “a little Class A (baseball)” could only be pulled off by Adam Driver. But if the audience is willing to appreciate the dry humor in the film, supplemented by Bill Murray, it’ll have some viewers chuckling.
“The Dead Don’t Die” not only breaks the fourth wall, it demolishes it toward the end of the film, but this break is alluded to in the beginning. At the end of the film, Ronnie hits his continuous “this is going to end badly” line. Cliff finally gets frustrated and asks Ronnie how he’s so sure that this is going to end badly. “I know because I’ve read the script,” Ronnie says, “Jim gave me the whole script.” “He only gave me our scenes. I never saw a complete script,” Cliff replies. Cliff expresses frustration with Jim (Jarmusch), which only makes the fourth wall break funnier.
“The Dead Don’t Die” is a horror comedy perfect for anyone who loves dry humor and isn’t afraid of some gruesome zombie depictions. The fourth wall breaks and appropriate casting allow for comedy in a movie that would otherwise only attract a niche audience.
Sources: IMDb, “The Dead Don’t Die”