Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver don’t let a zombie invasion get in the way of their droll banter in “The Dead Don’t Die.” (Focus Features)

Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver don’t let a zombie invasion get in the way of their droll banter in “The Dead Don’t Die.” (Focus Features)

‘Dead Don’t Die’ puts a Jim Jarmuschian spin on the zombie genre

In-jokes and deadpan drollery by the likes of Bill Murray abound in this enjoyably shaggy outing.

Maybe it’s the “toxic lunar vibrations.” Or consuming coffee and doughnuts too late in the day.

Possibly it has something to do with Cleveland.

The zombie apocalypse must have some sort of explanation, but Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” is not interested in exploring it. This loopy comedy would rather slouch around and makes jokes about horror movies.

Jarmusch, on a roll lately with “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “Paterson,” is on something like a vacation here, gathering his favorite actors and flipping the bird in the direction of modern society. Despite the bitter aftertaste, the film makes for strangely good company.

In a small Pennsylvania town — not coincidentally, the same kind of location zombie godfather George Romero used for his films — a sheriff (Bill Murray) and deputy (Adam Driver) sense something amiss.

The sun is out way too late, for instance. Plus, the two likable folks at the local diner have had their intestines munched on by intruders.

Enlightenment comes from a friendly newscaster (Rosie Perez), reporting that “polar fracking” has caused the Earth to shift off its axis. That can’t be good.

When the undead rise from their graves (Iggy Pop and Sara Driver are the first memorable marauders), they demand the one thing that meant the most to them during their lives. Coffee, for instance. Or Snapple.

This is a nod to Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” where the zombies return to a huge shopping mall, endlessly roaming its corridors — basically indistinguishable from any shopping mall on any weekend afternoon.

Jarmusch brings in a gallery of interesting actors, most of whom don’t have a whole lot to do: Chloë Sevigny, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover. As “Hermit Bob,” an old coot wisely isolating himself in the forest, Tom Waits comes across as the voice of reason.

While Bill Murray and Adam Driver try to out-deadpan each other, Tilda Swinton steals the show as a Scottish undertaker whose skill with a sword comes in handy when cutting off zombie heads. Jarmusch’s directing style is so laid-back here I wish more of the cast had Swinton’s zip.

“The Dead Don’t Die” is full of meta-references to being in a Jim Jarmusch movie, which strongly suggests that Jarmusch was more interested in spoofing movie cliches than in zombies. Fair enough, although the inside-joke strategy doesn’t build to much.

I enjoyed watching the film, just for its shaggy rhythm and the almost vaudeville-like approach to repeating gags. This is no “Shaun of the Dead” — more like a shrug of the dead.

The film has one incisive ongoing joke. You know how most horror movies seem to be populated by people who have never seen a horror movie? This one is the opposite: Everybody knows, and cites, the films that might have provided useful information in dealing with a zombie attack. It doesn’t help ‘em one bit.

“The Dead Don’t Die” (3 stars)

Jim Jarmusch takes a laid-back (and in-jokey) approach to the zombie apocalypse, as two deadpan police officers (Bill Murray, Adam Driver) try to figure out what’s made the undead rise in their small town. It sure doesn’t build to much, but the comic rhythm is enjoyable on its own. Tilda Swinton steals the show as a sword-wielding Scottish undertaker.

Rating: R, for violence, language

Opening: Friday: Alderwood Mall, Seattle 10, Thornton Place

Talk to us

More in Life

Rich Davis works on finishing the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built anything before, but the shutdown left him with ample time to learn a new skill.

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Oslo’s City Hall, with stirring murals and art that depict Norway’s history. (Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe)
Rick Steves on Oslo, the polar opposite of ‘Big Box’ culture

The Norwegian capital city is expensive, but its charm and civility are priceless.

Also known as Rose of Sharon, hibiscus is a hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer. (Nicole Phillips)
Hibiscus will bring a tropical look to your August garden

Also known as Rose of Sharon, the hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer.

Dave Dodge stands on a speaker while playing his guitar during Nite Wave’s show at Tony V’s Garage on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Curtain falls on Tony V’s in Everett — at least for now

The nightspot was hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic. It might reopen when the county hits Phase 4 of the state reopening plan.

2020 Cadillac CT4 has elegant looks, animated performance

This luxury compact sedan is all new, and it offers a choice between two turbocharged engines.

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.
For this Bothell artist, ‘happiness is flowers’

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

Practice the art of doing nothing to nurture inner peace

It’s the ability to sit, listen to the sounds of nature, look at nothing in particular, and just be.

Most Read