You watch Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die” waiting for it to get started. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait. For the record, the screening was last week and I’m still waiting.
“The Dead Don’t Die” isn’t just deadpan — it’s dead. Taking place over a very long night and day in a quiet small town called Centerville, it depicts a series of curious events involving a purple moon, strangely variable daylight hours and, oh yes — an increasingly large band of zombies, who stagger about demanding coffee and severing people’s body parts. A crew of local police officers (Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny), a movie-nerd convenience-store employee (Caleb Landry Jones) and a very strange mortician (Tilda Swinton, in a performance so intense she’s practically vibrating) find themselves doing battle with the undead.
Jarmusch, who’s much better in the vampire realm (check out his deliciously languorous “Only Lovers Left Alive,” starring Swinton, from a few years back), fills the movie with “Night of the Living Dead” references, a perpetually reprised title song by Sturgill Simpson and self-consciously laconic dialogue. “Something weird is going on,” intones Driver’s Ronnie, in precise deadpan; he, like everyone else in the movie, seems to be in on a joke that he doesn’t feel like sharing. Maybe the joke’s on us.
★½ “The Dead Don’t Die,” with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. 104 minutes. Rated R for zombie violence/gore and for language. Opens June 14 at multiple theaters.