SPOILERS!

In the sleepy small town of Centerville, the dead return to life when the earth shifts on its axis.

The Dead Don’t Die has an unprecedented atmosphere of doom and gloom in a small town which captures an odd eerie feel
echoing The Night the Living Dead. However, it’s marred by hanking issues that prevent it becoming what could have been a cult classic.

Jim Jarmusch’s writing decision to break the fourth wall and have the characters talk about the script within the film steals all the novelty from the zany characters and their convincing emotional sentiments. Especially from Cloe Sevigny who gives her deputy believable touching grief. It simply sucks the life out from his solid directing offering.

Adam Driver’s Ronnie and Bill Murray’s Chief Robinson are wonderful as the smalltown law men along with the rest of the cast. Steve Buscemi as a small minded farmer, samurai swinging Tilda Swinton and Danny Glover’s Hank are notable, even if a little wasted. Iggy Pop’s coffee yearning zombie extended cameo is memorable.

As a side note, it’s reminiscent on places of the 2003 Australian film the Undead, including borrowing a wacky alien contact moment. Along with three teens who escape there’s another subplot involving Selena Gomez’s Zoe and her two friends. Neither story threads really pay off, aside from fleshing our Driver’s officer character with Zoe’s demise. This leaves the two separate groups fates slightly wasted and if not moot. That said, the knowing observational hobo in the woods played by Tom Waits strings the film all together.

The make-up effects, Frederick Elmes’ cinematography and location setting is great, even if some CGI is a little iffy. It’s rare for a film to seemingly go out of its way to spoil itself especially when it was so wonderfully setup. It takes away the multiple reward of rewatching value. The abruptness of the ending doesn’t help either.

When it’s being played straight the comedy wit presents itself like the joy of Lake Placid’s satire. But when it’s breaking the fourth wall and trying to be too clever, it stumbles, sadly pulling the carpet from under Driver and Murray’s stellar performances.

Overall, the haphazard script decisions rip the heart of what could have been a contemporary zom-com Return of the Living Dead type classic.

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