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: 68.841%
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

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