MadCetologist’s review published on Letterboxd:
New Years 2019 Horror Catch up! First up is The Dead Don't Die.
Opening Caveat: This is my first Jarmusch film...I know he has done quite a few movies, but I have no idea how representative this movie is of those films. So keep in mind I am reviewing this as a horror enthusiast, not as a particular devotee of his style of film-making
With that out of the way...
The Dead Don't Die could be thought of as the Seinfield of zombie movies. Seinfield was the so-called "TV show about nothing" and those terms could very well be used to define this film. Here we see an impressive cast of actors, playing characters inhabiting a small town, who soon find themselves at the mercy of a zombie apocalypse, brought out by the world tipping on its axis from fracking (!!!)
The cast here is great, but for the most part no one is really given anything to do: there are no real character arcs and the plot is threadbare at best. Several of those cast members also almost seem like stunt casting: you could remove there characters entirely and nothing would impact the film (cough juvenile deliquents, Selena Gomez cough). There really isn't much emotion at all here as well...With the exception of a couple of bits at the end, most of the cast goes through the production as if they were on Xanax.
Don't get me wrong, Deadpan humor can be fun...in moderation. Too much, and well, your movie just gets dull. And really that is what the film offers. In a field as crowded as the zombie comedy subgenre, I just expect a bit more. At times this film really feels as if the director/writer just weren't aware that zombie comedies were totally a thing, which might excuse some choices. Furthermore, the ending narration is about the worst example of "THIS IS WHAT MY MOVIE IS ABOUT" explanation that I have ever heard. Dawn of the Dead over 40 years ago covered "zombies as metaphor for capitalism" already, and in a much better way.
If I sound harsh on the film, keep in mind there are things I still enjoyed about it. Tilda Swinton is always an amazing actress, and her whole character really feels like someone plucked from a completely different and more enjoyable movie. For a non horror director, there were a few fairly effective scenes of the zombies. And of course, the cast is great, even if I think it didn't do much.
Ultimately in a year with both the most original zombie comedy of the decade (One Cut of the Dead) and movies that lean far more into overt comedy (Little Monsters), The Dead Don't Die is a bit lacking, but overall it's worth tracking down if you are hardcore zombie fan.