We’re Acting Like Zombies

Jim Jarmusch’s new movie is an accusation aimed at his audience: As the world plummets toward an ecological catastrophe, we still shamble through our former existences, brainless, as though the end of the world hasn’t already been written.

The Dead Don’t Die is satirical—in almost every way it’s a caricature of zombie movies, going through and subverting an entire catalog of genre clichés—and the actors all play self-conscious riffs on their past roles or public reputations. But the movie isn’t funny, not really. It’s sad and depressing. Because the cast knows exactly what’s in store for them, they sleepwalk through the movie in a state of hopeless passivity, half-heartedly fighting for their lives but ultimately succumbing as much to their own despair as to the remarkably slow and inept zombies who attack them.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that almost everyone dies, ingloriously, but what’s striking is how little their knowledge of zombies helps them. It’s exactly the opposite: Because they know they’re in a zombie movie, they hardly even try to escape their fate. But the ease with which they do escape, when they try (the zombies move at such a slow and labored shamble that a brisk walking pace is all it really takes), demonstrates that the real problem is not the zombies themselves. Most of the characters who die in the movie do so because they just wait for it to happen.

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