The most annoying films to review are not the terrible films like your Hellboys who get everything wrong or your Mad Max Fury Roads who get everything right but the films that squander their potential.
The ones that, on paper have everything going for them but just can’t quite make the most of their ideas, cast or potential.
The ones that just make me want to scream at the screen, go back and write another draft and get it right this time!
Because The Dead Don’t Die should tick all my boxes. It’s a zombie film which usually means a siege movie (my favourite genre), it’s got a great cast, an amazing director- every film geek should check out the directors previous film Only Lovers Left Alive.
But… pretty much it’s every problem can be traced back to question ‘so what are you going to do with that?’
For example, it’s revealed early on that polar fracking has disturbed the day-night cycle. ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ Are you going to go the Stepford Wives thing of having every scene in broad daylight? Juxtaposing the glorious sunshine with the creeping horror of a zombie hoard? Nope, the last half of the film is in darkness.
Technology isn’t working. ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ No phones to call for help, no cars to escape in or alarms to warn us. Nope, tech works when the plot wants it to and doesn’t when it doesn’t.
The greatest cast ever disassembled screams the marketing, great, but (all together now) ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ With a cast so large I can’t get invested in anyone. Is Bill Murray going to say that unusually fights ghosts? No. Is too Danny Glover too old for this? No. Is Selena Gomez going to sing a song to cheer everyone up or discover that her songs drive everyone away a la Mars Attacks? No.
The zombies are smarter than your average zombie, drawn to places that were important to them in life. ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ A Wi-Fi joke? Seriously.
And it just goes on and on and on like that. This film has enough ideas to fill out a TV show but doesn’t DO anything with them. Or it’s cast. Apart from Tilda Swindon. Her character rules but the cast is so big with so much going on that she never has a chance to develop as a character.
Look… It’s like I tell the tourists I’m forced to interact with, yes, New York New York has enough stars on Broadway to make a new galaxy but do you know what the west end has? Plays worth watching.
It’s the same here, if your not prepared to use your cast except as an advertising gimmick then why have them?
Oh, oh oh! I have another one. Some of the characters appear to have forth wall knowledge. ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ Nothing? Moving along.
The plots your bog standard set up. In nowherevill USA, the dead start rising and the living try to fight back. Zombie films not really being big on a twisting narrative. But as a way to mock society? How consumerism and the daily grind means that we probably wouldn’t notice a zombie apocalypse? Or a way to examine what makes us human, placing compassion and empathy against our drive to survive? It’s a hard lens to beat but here? Nothing. Zombies arise and sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the dead because apparently any emotion in this world is illegal or everyone took some downers before coming to the set.
Seriously, if your case doesn’t seem to be invested then why should I? I could be at home watching Anna and the Apocalypse again. At least that has characters i care about, singing and dancing penguins and a villain actually remembering to have fun. But here? Nothing.
Squandered opportunity after squandered opportunity after squandered opportunity. The violence is mostly off screen, there’s nothing distinctive or memorable about this film and at times, it feels so much longer than it’s 1 hour 40 minute runtime.
Everyone’s acting like the Straight Man, we never learn anything about any of the characters, two of them might have feelings for each other ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ Noble sacrifice? Tearful confession before a nearly certain to fail desperate last roll of the dice? No. Of course not. Don’t be silly.
The townsfolk go straight to zombies as an explanation for a series of murders that happen ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ Set traps? Prepare? Try to escape? Nope.
There’s seemingly only one song in this universe ‘so what are you going to do with that?’
You have one of the most unique singing voices in history acting as an observer/narrator ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ Your not even going to let him sing?
I just don’t get you movie.
Perhaps the inevitable cult that’s going to grow up around this will tell me where I’m going wrong but at the moment I just don’t see it.
Look, not every zombie film has to be Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland but being better than Strippers versus Zombies or Zoombies 2 should not be this hard! At least I can laugh at how bad they are!
To me, this film is just a stilted, boring mess that squanders every opportunity the film gods have given it. Hell, I genuinely think this would have been better as a slow burn TV show, as is?
My Score- Skip It.