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“The Dead Don’t Die” dies

Updated: Oct 14, 2019


It's freak-out time in small town Centerville. Police officers Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny), and Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) find themselves in a zombie apocalypse.

4K frame shots courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital code; 2019; R for zombie violence/gore, and for profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “Stick Together”

HIPSTERS TAKE a beating in the latest from filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. So does everyone else.

Bill Murray, master of droll, gives his take on “The Dead Don’t Die” in a super-short featurette: “I’ve been in what I consider, before this, the greatest zombie film of all time, ‘Zombieland.’ This really makes your career. It almost typecasts me.”

Like always with Murray, we chose what’s to believe and what not. True enough: “Zombieland” (2009) is one of the best zombie comedies made along with “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Fido” (2006). A sequel, “Zombieland: Double Tap,” with original cast Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin – and Bill Murray (?) – opens October 17. It’s possible; Murray, who appeared as himself, died in “Zombieland,” but … zombies, you know?

(1) Peterson and Robertson respond to a complaint about a missing chicken. (2) The accused, Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) is the first to notice something strange is happening. He's smart enough to maintain a safe distance and watch from afar. (3) Robertson notices it's still daylight after 8 p.m. His watch has stopped working - and so has every clock in the town. (4) Patrol car OO1 on the way to trouble! Power fluctuates, news reports are weird, people and animals are disappearing, but no one knows the dead are rising from their graves. Yet.


Don’t expect the same kind of action, characterization and adventure in “The Dead Don’t Die.” Jarmusch fans notwithstanding, it’s more of a failed college film experiment. Pacing redefines “creep”; its 104 minutes are way too many. The only fun comes when Jarmusch’s actors break the fourth wall:

“Jim gave me the whole script [early].” — Adam Driver/“Officer Ronnie Peterson”
“He only gave me our scenes … What a dick.” — Bill Murray/“Chief Cliff Robertson”

Jarmusch's band of actors return: Tilda Swinton, who’s been in four; Adam Driver, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi and others. Murray has been in three. 

“Jim likes to create a sort of family of people, both cast and crew. We like to foster that spirit in making the film. It makes the process kind of joyful.” — Carter Logan, producer

Right. So Jarmusch fans could be up for this. The little town of Centerville has been experiencing unusual phenomena. Pets and farm animals are disappearing; blackouts are frequent. The local police, including Officer Mindy Morrison (Sevigny), investigate. Farmer Frank Miller (Buscemi) is certain Hermit Bob (Waits) is responsible, except we see Bob making observations of his own from a distance. He’s smart enough to stay undercover. Soon enough, the semi-stalwart cops and incredulous townsfolk discover zombies have taken over.

It's easy to pick up on tropes established by the master, George “Night of the Living Dead” Romero. Jarmusch and Romero are in sync re: the ruin of civilization through commercialism and apathy. Jarmusch updates the theme to include environmental disasters such as fracking and government idiocy. In brief political commentary, paranoid Farmer Miller wears a red cap adorned with “Make America White Again.” Tilda Swinton adds martial arts flair as a katana-wielding funeral director. We can't miss how the cop reference, Swinton’s Zelda Winston, parodies AMC’s former blockbuster, “The Walking Dead.” But it takes a long to get there.

(1) Fern (Eszter Balint), waitress at the local diner, also wonders why it's not dark outside. A song plays on the radio and Peterson tells Robertson it's the theme for the movie, breaking the 4th wall. (2) Farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) is suspicious of everyone. (3) Another day begins for Peterson, Morrison and Chief Robertson. (4) “If you kill in ordinary life, you don’t feel great about it. But if you kill a zombie, you can kill without remorse. It takes an extraordinary amount of energy, strength and power. And that’s what, I guess, we action guys have to do.” — Bill Murray/Chief Robertson


“The way that Jim plays the genre is not easily defined. In the sense of it being a comedy of his own unique brand, it’s really using the conventions of the horror genre to play to laughs and the absurdity of our present times.” — Carter Logan, producer

True that. There are some who will love DDD. Our group of viewers were sharply divided between love and hate. The satire is there. Zombies haunt the things they loved. A caffeine-addict charges into a diner's steaming pots moaning “Coffee … coffee”; a walking wino continually mumurs “Chardonnay.” That’s Carol Kane behind those running sores. Fashionable hipsters still look pretty good after being beheaded, except for the blood. 

“One of the things I think is unusual about this zombie film is that you feel that the zombies are individuals. And I don’t mean that we get to know them or know their backstory, but people come out of the graves from specific times and eras as they would if the graves opened up. Like, ‘Oh, my goodness, that was a person.’” — Joshua Astrachan, producer

(1) Iggy Pop plays the Coffee Zombie. (2) Morrison begins to lose her cool as things go from bad to worse. (3) Hardware store owner Hank Thompson (Danny Glover), Chief Robertson and Peterson pool their thoughts. (4) The hipsters decide to stop for the night in Centerville. Big mistake! (5) Danny Perkins (Larry Fessenden) owner of the Moonlight Motel compare observances with Robertson and Peterson. (6) The new funeral homeowner/undertaker Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) has a variety of interests.



The 4K Ultra HD is an exclusive digital platform release from Universal Studios, and most importantly its a true 4K master (1.85:1 aspect ratio). The extra resolution sourced from 3.4K and 4.5K Arri and Angénieux digital cameras extract the finest detail with facial close-ups, while the wide shots are exquisite from distant landscapes (trees, farmlands, and buildings) filmed in and around the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville, New York, 140 miles north of New York City. The 1080p physical disc also looks very good.

The HDR toning is natural and richer with skin tones, costumes, and sets. Filmed mostly outdoors at night, light sources uncover a satisfying amount of detail. Unlike other zombie films, the decomposing monsters show no attempt at realism.


The DTS-HD Master 5.1 soundtrack featured on the Blu-ray is a winner. Dialogue is clearly delivered, but effects distribution is great ranging from dead silence and the rustle of corpses beginning to stir and rise, to attacks and screams. It’s all well-balanced against a background of creepy music with no annoying sound-blasts. The digital platforms use a compressed six-channel soundtrack.


Are short and sweet. “Bill Murray: Zombie Hunting Action Star” is more entertainment feature than interview. (Does he ever give a straightforward interview? Don’t think so.) “Stick Together” featuring interviews with the cast and producers explores the story's themes and their experiences working with Jim Jarmusch. He must be a great guy because those who work with him keep coming back. (No pun intended!)

“Behind the Scenes of ‘The Dead Don’t Die’” are super-short entertainment vignettes with a “play all” option: “Zombie Tai Chi,” “Growl Practice.” “A Spin Around Set,” “Craft Services,” “Undead Symphony” and “Finger Food.” Always gotta appreciate it when the filmmakers go to extra trouble like this.

“Jarmusch will always have a subtle social commentary about humanity. He’s an engaged filmmaker, and can’t just tell stories without referencing where we are in society.” — Larry Fessenden/“Danny Perkins”

A great concept – but Jarmusch is so detached from his zombie world, we don’t care about it. It left me wondering if “The Dead Don’t Rise” signals the end of the zombie craze.

— Kay Reynolds

(1, 2, 3 & 4) Zombies are on the loose in Centerville. (5) Bobby Wiggens (Caleb Landry Jones) and Thompson try to barricade themselves from the undead. (6) Winston has applied make-up to a pair of fresh corpses in the funeral home, when they sit up and come alive.


(1) Morrison can't take it anymore. (2) The zombies attack the patrol unit.

(3) Surprise! Aliens seem to be involved.





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