Is “The Dead Don’t Die” Just Brilliantly Misunderstood?

Upon its release a year ago, The Dead Don’t Die proved to be fairly divisive among horror fans. It currently holds a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an Audience Score of only 38%, and its IMDB rating is a profoundly average 5.5.

For some, it was a brilliant metaphorical satire, and for others it was a boring and tried too hard. So we decided to take a deeper look into this very misunderstood movie.

The Works of Jim Jarmusch
For fans of Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die wasn’t at all surprising in its tone or execution. He’s known for his very deadpan and droll sense of humor, which usually tries to get a point across.

His films are all creative and clever in their own way. But his style is definitely not for everyone.

It’s the reason why it almost feels like that Wes Anderson horror parody from SNL. But it’s understandable that casual horror fans were expecting something more like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, and were disappointed.

That said, it seems like more an issue of how it was marketed. A lot of times, our expectation going into something shapes our overall perception and opinion of it.

Zombies as a Metaphor
It was never really just about zombies. In typical Jim Jarmusch fashion, he merely used them as a metaphor for the impending doom that climate change.

In a lot of ways, it’s similar to the white walkers from Game of Thrones, in that they represented a massive threat to everyone. Between Steve Buscemi’s not so subtle hat, and Adam Driver’s Prius, there are tiny little political and environmental references throughout.

The whole movie has a strong pessimistic vibe that really plays into this metaphor.

As previously mentioned, if you’re at all familiar with Jarmusch as a director, it’s not at all surprising that it wasn’t just a typical zombie movie.

Intentionally Disappointing Ending
For many (myself included), the ending seemed like a bit of a letdown, as in the third act everything just sort of ends.

There’s a lot of buildup, just for them to end up in the graveyard and die, except for Tilda Swinton who escapes in her UFO.

Essentially it’s telling us the only way to survive Earth’s inevitable doom is to leave it.

But that was very much the point. Jarmusch’s thinly veiled metaphor about climate change ends with a hopeless defeat because sadly, that’s what many scientists are saying about it.

The grimmest projections state that at the current rate, our planet cannot sustain itself for another century.

So if the ending seemed like a letdown, it’s because Jarmusch was trying to say that humanity will suffer something similar. Essentially, it’s him trolling the very idea of a satisfying conclusion.

In hindsight, perhaps we judged this film too harshly, perhaps we made a mistake in trying to evaluate it using conventional cinematic norms, when there is absolutely nothing conventional about Jim Jarmusch.

What did you think of The Dead Don’t Die? Is it metaphorically brilliant, or too arthouse for your taste? Let us know in the comments!

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