Here is a completely insubstantial series of unsuccessful tonal shifts, made with the most average tier filmmaking, that makes about as much of a comedic/satirical/whatever-the-hell-this-is-supposed-to-be impression as a biblically long joke without a punchline. I’ve never understood, nor sympathised with, the sheer eccentric aggression the internet culture of today likes to resort to, specifically when someone asks a film’s naysayer if, maybe, they just “didn’t get it”. The Dead Don’t Die does nothing to change this opinion I have, as I can summarise every thought and feeling I have about this film with three words and one letter: I don’t get it. This isn’t the first time I would use this summary either, there have been a few films in my movie-watching life I can say I simply didn’t “get”, and it therefore bewilders me that people who ask this are immediately vilified as annoyingly pretentious; always!
Best not lose my train of thought, The Dead Don’t Die feels like it is about to flip the table and reveal a brand new spin on the very tired zombie genre (would still love a 28 months later though) any second now; but it never happens. And the time and time again that it shifts its tone, from curiously serious to awkwardly cartoonish, is always as smooth and delicate as a dodgy decapitation. I knew nothing of the film’s intentions before commencing my viewing, the poster/DVD cover suggests something along the lines of Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead, but when Bill Murray and Adam Driver sit in a car and emote to the rhythm of something more dramatic, with not even an attempt at humour anywhere in sight, I thought the film might just require me to also make some effort if I want to know what its deal is; nothing wrong with that, and you can’t judge a book (or DVD in this case) by its cover.
But then Iggy Pop shows up as a zombie and I start wondering if I might have nodded off without realising, and someone had changed the discs. Is this film a comedy? What was clearly supposed to be humour seemed way too few and far between for that to be the case. Was it just too subtle in other places for me to notice it was there? I honestly don’t know! Tilda Swinton did have the odd funny line here and there, and the sudden presence of familiar celebrity faces, making random extended cameos with admittedly decent enough performances, did sometimes put a smile on my face, but that’s where the positives put all their feet in the grave for me. Just when I think the film only wants to be rather quirky, it turns into a cartoon, when I feel like I might be getting close to just rolling with it, an actor delivers a performance so serious and legitimately fearful, I feel like we’re suddenly back in straight-faced territory again.
These tonal shifts hit me like a sack full of bricks every single time, and even if it settled down and just picked one for goodness sake, it would still have trouble functioning since none of them work on their own when given a chance. The humour and quirkiness were not very funny, the scenes i’ll call the “serious sounding ones” were just a bit weird, the special effects were awkwardly unconvincing, the cinematography was painfully unimaginative and cheap looking, and a fourth wall break, towards the end of the picture, found itself eliciting only embarrassment-fuelled violence upon one’s self. The Dead Don’t Die is simply a film I won’t remember, everything about feels so incredibly average that my bank has no place for it. I didn’t like it, I didn’t hate it either, but my inability to fully wrap my brain around its constantly rubix-cubing tone, atmosphere and incomprehensible motives leave me with two things:
The first is a question, just what was it about the script that attracted such a colossal cast? Does the director know them all personally? Is he just a really swell guy? Did it play out differently on paper? I would really like to know.
The second is a mere statement – I just don’t get it.
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