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Best Horror Movies on HBO: “The Dead Don't Die” Review

Officer Ronnie (Driver), Officer Mindy (Sevigny), and Chief Cliff (Murray)

Officer Ronnie (Driver), Officer Mindy (Sevigny), and Chief Cliff (Murray)

“The Dead Don’t Die” is a weird horror-comedy written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. When I knew it was directed and written by Jim, and that it was a zombie movie, I knew I had to watch it.

It’s a satiric movie and it has some points, not in common with standard Hollywood fare. It’s an ensemble cast movie, i.e., a multi-protagonist film and a laid-back movie with a few laughs. But don’t expect something like “Zombieland” or “The Crazies”, because it’s not like that.

A handful of changes push the characters of this movie to face multiple paradigm shifts. The most pressing one is people turning into cannibalistic undead, but these are a different kind of undead, these are zombies with special needs.

The script is hilarious and the delivery by the multi-protagonist cast is rather odd. It feels strange because they’re witnessing the end-times, but how most of the actors played the characters made them feel very chill about the destruction of the fabric of the film world’s reality.

Since I listened to a Tom Waits tape for the first time, circa late 1999, it’s always a blast for me to see him acting in a movie. The part of Waits in this movie is great, if not that deep, but the characterization makes it very fun to watch.

Hermit Bob (Tom Waits)

Hermit Bob (Tom Waits)

I think a few of the night scenes are too dark. This may be a problem with how I have configured my display, but for moments I had a very vague idea of what was going on due to how dark it was. I had to normalize the stills for this article because they were way too dark.

Through this movie, you have the subplots of the secondary characters that most of the time are executed in a single location, and then you have the policemen cruising around the town and visiting locations.

I think the main plot (that I think is the story of the policemen) and all the subplots are okay, except for one that I think was kind of rushed.

If you understand what’s going on with the subplot I’m talking about, you may not see it as rushed, but the reveal of the subplot comes too late and there aren’t many scenes in between the scene when you are given the ultimate clue of what’s happening and the end of the movie.

The effects are not anything to write home about, but they are believable. They are credible and there are not any kinks that make you think it’s an effect. Still, other than a shotgun-meets-zombie-head event, I can’t remember any other memorable kills or undead feeding that I should tell you. The quantity of shocking scenes I think is appropriate for the kind of movie it is.

As I said, the scenes when chief Cliff and officer Ronnie are roaming the town in their patrol car are immersive and fun. Personally, the close rural quarters of the environment of those scenes made me like this movie more than other road movies, included the ones by Jim I watched.

As in any other of Jarmusch’s movies, there is a highly valuable second current going on that maybe it’s taken for granted by many, but should be focused in; especially in one of Jim’s movies. And I’m talking about the soundtrack.

Jozef Van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch with SQÜRL

Jozef Van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch with SQÜRL

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I didn’t know until I read the titles of this movie, that Jim belongs to a musical act called SQÜRL, and it happens to make the soundtrack of this movie, except for the film’s main song, that’s a country song by Sturgill Simpson.

I can’t comment on the country genre, or the song of this movie, since it’s not my kind of music and I rather dislike it than like it. I liked the other music, the one by SQÜRL, a band that released a lot of music, among which are five albums, including “The Dead don’t Die”’s soundtrack.

I think SQÜRL nailed it with the music because the tunes go from ambiguous, dreadful, and melancholic to downright chthonic later on in the movie. It took me a few searches to find anywhere a mention of what genre SQÜRL performs, and the only classification I found is as marginal rock (ᔥ, on the band’s website itself.

I think this movie has a social commentary about America and it’s quite a food for thought and great to bring to the table. Moreover, Jim’s take is not without comedy that will draw a smile on your face. Still, behind the comedy there’s also the feeling of irony and disgust at how addled by extraneous installations society has become.

I have given a clue about the message at the beginning of the review, but I rather not touch the subject because it comes as a surprise.

If you like Bill Murray or Adam Driver, I know already that you love or will love this movie because when they’re traveling around seeing the world fall to pieces you feel like you’re traveling with them; in the backseat of their patrol car.

Another thing I liked about this movie was the final twist involving the character played by Tilda Swinton. I didn’t see it coming, while due to what I know I should have.

While not lacking enough zombie scenes to classify as a zombie horror movie, I think it’s more of a movie about the singularity than a run-of-the-mill horror movie.

Sadly, most of the planetary trouble involved is conveyed through info dumps instead of actual scenes, but those telling lines are not excessive and they get the movie’s singularity message through.

Special Needs Zombie Horde

Special Needs Zombie Horde

I went into it expecting a zombies movie, but it is much more than that. You must watch it during a single sitting; even if it’s a very relaxing movie with the potential of creating an ambiance ideal for falling asleep.

As always, if you’re a fan of zombie movies, you know you want to see every one of them, and this is another that is mandatory for fans of the undead. If you like Iggy Pop or Tom waits, also, watch it because it was fun to see both of them in the roles they played.

If you want zombie movies with a siding of pop-corn, then don’t watch it, it’s not a pop-corn movie by any means.

Rather, it is a zombie movie making fun of all other zombie media, but especially of pop-corn zombie movies because this one doesn’t take itself seriously in the least.

© 2020 Bholenath Valsan

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