*. I’ve said before that peak zombie was probably reached sometime around 2007. Also around the same time came the inevitable progression (or regression) into zombie comedy or zomcom, a subgenre featuring such hits and misses as Shaun of the Dead (still the best of the bunch), Fido, Zombieland, and Juan of the Dead.
*. My sense is that by 2019 we’d passed peak zomcom, though 2019 saw the release of both this movie and Zombieland: Double Tap. Too late to the party? I think so. But The Dead Don’t Die is something worse than just a zomcom that isn’t funny, or just another lousy zombie movie.
*. The feeling I get is that this was one of those movies, Beat the Devil may be the archetype, put together by a bunch of famous/talented people (“The greatest zombie cast ever disassembled!”) just as a lark. As such, it may have been a lot of fun to make but is a lot less fun for the audience. Still, all those big names did mean it got to open Cannes.
*. Where is the comedy in this zombie comedy? In the way not-very-funny material is dragged out as running gags (the theme song, the bit at the diner where everyone serially suspects the involvement of wild animals)? I thought the dick jokes in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse were funnier than this.
*. Whatever the reason for the lack of humour, the message is old and dull. The zombies have been revived by polar fracking. Maybe. But so what? The zombies are also mindless consumers, drawn to do the same things they did when alive. Well, that’s an idea that only goes as far back as Dawn of the Dead and the mallwalking corpses. Which was over forty years ago. Only the brand names have changed, and the fact that the zombies here can articluate their desire fox Xanax and Oxy.
*. Other funny stuff? Well RZA, head of the Wu-Tang Clan (not to mention The Man With the Iron Fists) drives a UPS truck. Except now it’s WU-PS. Get it? Ho-ho.
*. There are subplots that go nowhere and serve no purpose at all. The biggest of these is Tilda Swinton playing an alien samurai mortician. I guess “alien samurai mortician” seemed funny to someone. But she isn’t. And why is she even here? It’s never explained and she has no function in the story at all.
*. Tom Waits appears as Hermit Bob, a figure who I guess is meant to function as a kind of chorus to the events going on in Centerville. But do we need a chorus? Isn’t it pretty clear to everyone what’s going on?
*. This leads me to another point. The thing is, I think there’s the germ of an interesting movie in here. I like how so many people seem already primed for the zombie apocalypse even before it’s made clear that this is what’s happening. Young people especially. They’ve seen the movies and TV shows. They can pick up the references to Romero. This reverses the usual zombie plot point where it takes a while for the characters to come to grips with what is going on. Which made me wonder: what if they made a zombie movie, one that all the characters understood to be a zombie movie, and the zombies never actually appeared? Now that might have been fun to watch.
*. Alas, despite the stupid metafictionality of the premise here (Bill Murray and Adam Driver even discuss having read the script), nothing like that is done. Instead everyone just goes through the motions until the end arrives and we get to see that, yes, things are going to turn out badly.
*. The only hope for this corpse of a movie is that, given enough time, it will find a fan base that “gets it.” All that stuff that isn’t funny? It’s comic genius! Jim Jarmusch and the gang were years ahead of us all.
*. Well, I can wait.