News

The Dead Don't Die First Reviews: Star Cast – Especially Tilda Swinton – Breathes Life Into Jim Jarmusch's Droll Undead Comedy

The very first reviews out of Cannes say Jarmusch's fright-free meta zombie comedy is – like brains themselves – for particular tastes.

by | May 14, 2019 | Comments

The 2019 Cannes Film Festival is underway, with Jim Jarmusch’s zombie flick The Dead Don’t Die leading the way as the opener. With a cast including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, and Iggy Pop (!), the zombie comedy sounds right up Jarmusch fans’ alley. Initial reviews out of Cannes are leaning mixed-positive, but there are some hesitations – like brains and, well, Jim Jarmusch, it may not be to everyone’s tastes. The movie is currently on 55% on the Tomatometer with 38 reviews (as of March 15, 10pm ET).

Here’s what critics are saying about The Dead Don’t Die:


Where does this fit within Jarmusch’s oeuvre?

The Dead Don’t Die is purebred Jarmusch, and much lighter on its feet than his last horror-themed project.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“Not as accomplished or thoughtful as his recent films, such as Only Lovers Left Alive and Paterson.” – Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

“As ever with Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die is marked most significantly by its attitude, a too-cool-for-school sense of disengagement shot through with comic inflections. – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Lethargic even by Jarmusch’s unhurried standards.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“With The Dead Don’t Die, Jarmusch has pioneered his own sub-subgenre: the undeadpan comedy.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“It’s an intimate picture, even for Jarmusch…if you’re a Jarmusch fan, or maybe even a newcomer, the movie will play beautifully as a weekend jaunt to your local theater.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine

The Dead Don't Die
(Photo by Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.)

Is the cast as good as it reads on paper?

“Tremendously assured performances by an A-list cast…there is much pleasure to be had looking at the impassive, knowing faces of Sevigny, Driver and especially Murray.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“Biggest scene-stealer goes to Tilda Swinton…less a character than a vehicle for a more-or-less unbroken chain of gif-me-quick memeable moments.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“[Swinton’s] delightful performance shoots the movie full of fresh embalming fluid every time it starts to rot. Which is often.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“At times, the deadpan of Murray and Driver becomes, well, a bit deadening…the sheer diversity of the cast members, along with their individual senses of humor, sustains one’s attention even when inspiration sometimes lags.” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“We come to Jarmusch for his unmistakable dry wit and rejection of convention…Driver and Swinton alone are enough to keep the hunger at bay.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“Caleb Landry Jones serves up the goods as a horror film geek…and Chloë Sevigny excels as a dangerously empathetic cop.” – Katherine McLaughlin, The List

The Dead Don't Die
(Photo by Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.)

How is Iggy Pop?

“One zombie is obsessed with coffee and is played by Iggy Pop – not looking all that different from the way he habitually does. In casting terms, it’s a stroke of genius.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“When word got out that Iggy Pop would be playing a zombie in the new Jim Jarmusch film, some of us found ourselves wondering how we would be able to tell.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“Iggy already looks like the undead.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety


So we know it’s a droll Jarmusch-y affair, but how is it as a zombie flick?

“What does a Jim Jarmusch zombie movie look like? It looks like just what you’d expect: a cheeky hipster walking-dead comedy that surveys the apocalypse with a shrug of blasé self-consciousness.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Best appreciated as an antidote to the aimless melodrama of The Walking Dead.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“Slim but fun hipster take on the format’s familiar tropes…although the primacy of attitude over scares will likely prevent it from drawing the fright-seeking mobs.” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Violent and gory enough to warrant an R rating, but aside from guts being spilled and some feasting on innards, most of the action consists of dozens of zombies being dustily decapitated.” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“None of this is remotely scary, or is meant to be; it’s all served up as a straight-faced semi-absurdist joke.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“You are likely to walk out thinking it’s the only zombie movie Jarmusch could have made. I wish that were more of a compliment.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times


The Dead Don't Die
(Photo by Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.)

Does the movie have a point to make?

“It’s hard to watch small-town America turn on itself and not see political parallels…but the film cheerfully self-identifies as fiction.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“[The zombies] emerge from their slumber thanks to — what else? — climate change.”- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Launching a broadside against materialism, Trump’s America and our collective apathy. It gets its point across, no matter how inelegantly.” – Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

“When the jokes fade and earnest metaphors seep in, preaching the vices of Technology and Capitalism, there’s little left to chew on.” – Ella Kemp, Culture Whisper


Does it work as a comedy?

“True wit is in short supply even though the film remains amusing most of the way.” – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Very few of the gags inspire more than a light chuckle, which isn’t great in a movie where the same could be said of the major characters.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“The film’s scattershot humor doesn’t always land, but even when it does it’s merely masking what is ultimately a gloomy portrait of our walking-dead existence.” – Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

“Jarmusch adds shockingly little to the humor or the perception.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“It’s the visual gags that keep the blood pumping…the charmingly silly humor carries it along.” – Katherine McLaughlin, The List


The Dead Don't Die
(Photo by Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.)

The Film Gets Real Meta, Right?

“The characters acknowledge that they’re inside a Jim Jarmusch film — and this quality is equally endearing and off-putting, depending on the effectiveness of the next joke.”  Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

“He’s saying, ‘Look! It’s Jim Jarmusch making a zombie movie! And yes, the film is that rib-nudging in its self-awareness.’” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“The cocktail of winking self-awareness and studied nonchalance is not strong enough to last the length of an entire film…It’s the self-awareness that really hurts it.” – Ben Croll, The Wrap

“Feeble meta-comedy…this Pirandellian flourish isn’t rigorously maintained and feels a bit studenty.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian


Any final words?

“[It’s] always viewable in its elegant deliberation and controlled tempo of weird normality – and beautifully photographed in an eerie dusk by Frederick Elmes.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“This is a winningly eccentric film, as attuned in its own way to the rhythms of ordinary life as Jarmusch and Driver’s (even better) 2016 feature Paterson.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“The trouble with The Dead Don’t Die is that the notion of treating a zombie uprising as a pitch-black comedy drenched in attitude has already been done to death.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“Offers a fascinating new ripple to the ongoing conversation about fan service – the film knows that its regal cast and sellable genre will be more than enough to grab our attention, so why bother trying to challenge, or even delight it?” – Ben Croll, The Wrap

“It looks like it was a hoot to make.” – Alexa Dalby, Dog and Wolf


The Dead Don’t Die opens in theaters June 14, 2019

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 68.979%
Critics Consensus: The Dead Don't Die dabbles with tones and themes to varying degrees of success, but sharp wit and a strong cast make this a zom-com with enough brains to consume.
Synopsis: The greatest zombie cast ever disassembled starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb... [More]
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

supernatural cars video Comics on TV Chernobyl Animation NBC Lifetime Video Games FXX Holidays Lifetime Christmas movies 71st Emmy Awards Infographic Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt SXSW festivals CBS All Access discovery Bravo Character Guide American Society of Cinematographers casting Amazon Prime Video foreign composers Best and Worst Emmy Nominations 2017 HBO Brie Larson Valentine's Day witnail political drama Song of Ice and Fire Super Bowl transformers History Rocketman 20th Century Fox Sundance Now facebook Syfy TV Land TCA cats social media The CW Baby Yoda YA E! Nat Geo christmas movies Crunchyroll 2015 Rocky Tarantino Tubi 2020 elevated horror YouTube PaleyFest theme song talk show TruTV hispanic harry potter screen actors guild singing competition GLAAD nature travel Musicals AMC Hallmark Christmas movies TNT serial killer USA Network stand-up comedy First Reviews Disney streaming service reboot The Witch Amazon Prime natural history diversity joker DC streaming service Superheroe MCU Premiere Dates true crime Holiday See It Skip It game of thrones revenge HBO Max binge Logo indie Sci-Fi CMT Grammys Trivia MTV Disney Plus screenings TCA 2017 medical drama LGBTQ Apple TV Plus A24 Walt Disney Pictures streaming Cartoon Network IFC Opinion Television Academy Starz Awards Tour cancelled TV shows breaking bad BBC Star Wars cops TV Shondaland Set visit Film sitcom series Biopics Adult Swim Nominations cults CNN Year in Review toy story Hulu Red Carpet RT21 spinoff ESPN TCA Winter 2020 award winner halloween 007 Discovery Channel Binge Guide directors Nickelodeon Thanksgiving Calendar Spike mutant New York Comic Con DGA Emmys based on movie crossover anime psychological thriller quibi Pirates Film Festival Tomatazos Watching Series Superheroes Columbia Pictures WGN Marvel Studios crime FOX cinemax Avengers Star Trek Photos psycho batman Mindy Kaling dceu Marvel Turner blaxploitation sequel politics APB Reality Disney+ Disney Plus Freeform El Rey Disney adventure YouTube Premium historical drama miniseries Christmas sag awards Women's History Month Trailer dragons X-Men President thriller dc Certified Fresh period drama space ABC Family 24 frames technology Mudbound Spring TV richard e. Grant Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Apple spy thriller slashers doctor who cancelled TV series Ghostbusters 21st Century Fox Mary Tyler Moore OWN Lucasfilm Paramount Network WarnerMedia ghosts GoT vampires Showtime Elton John Food Network Spectrum Originals Comic Book disaster teaser PBS Kids & Family Winners war Music San Diego Comic-Con robots The Walking Dead Epix anthology docudrama adaptation Fantasy tv talk Ovation Sony Pictures Esquire finale cancelled television DC Universe The Purge Rom-Com Mary Poppins Returns National Geographic 2016 Election Teen Peacock Mary poppins Rock aliens Sundance Crackle TBS CBS Britbox Winter TV Academy Awards 45 Acorn TV Dark Horse Comics Summer biography Oscars Mystery independent name the review 2018 Comedy MSNBC crime thriller Reality Competition versus blockbuster movies Podcast Trophy Talk Endgame The Arrangement comiccon Tumblr OneApp what to watch jamie lee curtis ABC comics television sports TCM free movies Captain marvel unscripted LGBT werewolf Extras CW Seed Vudu 2019 comic south america Disney Channel dramedy A&E Netflix Arrowverse golden globes Pixar police drama SundanceTV renewed TV shows VICE SDCC romantic comedy ratings canceled RT History kids science fiction DirecTV TV renewals Polls and Games Horror Apple TV+ TLC cancelled romance ITV Action Stephen King Black Mirror Masterpiece First Look Fall TV Quiz Heroines Creative Arts Emmys zero dark thirty USA E3 Country BET children's TV Cannes Marathons crime drama cooking Comedy Central justice league mockumentary Classic Film Netflix Christmas movies Toys GIFs Ellie Kemper FX Drama Interview Marvel Television Sneak Peek Turner Classic Movies Schedule YouTube Red Sundance TV Amazon Pet Sematary Shudder Countdown BBC America Family Writers Guild of America TIFF Fox News hist IFC Films book Martial Arts canceled TV shows strong female leads Musical Lionsgate NYCC spanish language Warner Bros. green book rotten movies we love Universal animated zombies VH1 Pop Box Office zombie spain spider-man Anna Paquin Paramount Hallmark boxoffice game show latino DC Comics Western Pride Month Cosplay cartoon Awards