Zombie movies aren’t exactly uncommon in theaters. This week’s The Dead Don’t Die offers something new though as it comes from writer/director Jim Jarmusch, a filmmaker more well known for his thoughtful and occasionally quirky low-key character dramas. Add on to that a cast that includes Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, Adam Driver, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits and others and you have something that’s intriguing at the very least.
Murray, Sevigny and Driver play sheriff department officers in a small town that finds itself at the center of the zombie apocalypse as the dead start breaking free from their graves. Wholly untrained for this sort of thing but still responsible for the citizens in town, the officers set out to do what they can to keep the undead at bay while keeping those still alive safe.
The first poster from early April proclaims the movie sports “The greatest zombie cast ever assembled,” the king of hyperbole that’s reminiscent of the old days of B-movie horror flicks designed to be seen in between make out sessions during a summer matinee. A single undead hand rises from the grave while the names of that impressive cast are featured on either side of the arm extending toward the night sky’s full moon.
A series of character posters came out a bit later, with each one bringing the character in question to the foreground while a zombie lurks behind them, the actor’s name highlighted in the cast list still running along both sides of the design.
The photos of Murray, Driver and Sevigny as well as costar Tilda Swinton from those posters was combined into a single image on the theatrical one-sheet, which maintains the branding and tagline seen previously.
The first trailer, released in early April, presents an offbeat and ridiculous zombie story. When a small town is hit by a wave of the undead it perplexes local law enforcement and just can’t be believed by anyone but eventually some of the rules are figured out and people start to take action. Overall, though, it’s a dry zombie comedy featuring great actors from a director you wouldn’t associate with such a story, which is most of the appeal here.
A restricted trailer came out a month later that had the police discussing the rules and laws of killing zombies as well as making seemingly arbitrary decisions about which residents are and aren’t informed about the dangers facing the town.
Online and Social
Focus Features’ official website opens with the second trailer. A synopsis of the story can be found once the front page loads and more photos, bios of the actors and other information is available by scrolling down the page and clicking on some of the pictures found there.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A promoted Tweet featuring the first trailer helped generate awareness and hopefully interest.
In mid-May the first TV spot was released, covering the rules for killing zombies while showing how the small town has become infested with the undead, much to the dismay of local law enforcement.
Media and Publicity
In early April it was announced the movie was selected as the opening night feature at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Its U.S. premiere, though, was scheduled for the New Orleans Film Festival. It also later screened at Beyond Fest, with Sevigny appearing for a Q&A with attendees.
The first clip, debuted by People, came out in mid-May showing innocent travelers asking about local hotels in exactly the way characters in horror movies usually do. A second from moviefone featured the three police officers in the town being honest about how maybe it’s not going to be OK.
While at Cannes, the cast talked about what kinds of things scare them, including Jarmusch revealing what real world topics he was dealing with using the zombie metaphor. Swinton was also interviewed about her character and working with the rest of the cast, as was Sevigney.
A feature profile of Jarmusch focused on how he got this eclectic cast – which includes some previous collaborators – together for a very unconventional project. He also talked about his love of zombie movies in another interview.
Gomez was interviewed by Jimmy Fallon about working with the other actors and what kind of shenanigans Murray played at Cannes.
While the early reviews from Cannes and elsewhere haven’t been universally positive – often because they view the film from the perspective of Jarmusch’s previous films instead of on its own merits – the zombie genre is certainly one that needs a fresh perspective. It’s one that’s morphed over the years from an allegory for assimilation and numbness to one that seems rooted in survivalist fantasies involving fear of outsiders replacing “regular” people.
The campaign doesn’t make it clear what exactly zombies are being used as a metaphor for in this movie, but that’s because it’s too busy poking fun at the genre’s conventions. The focus is on how a bunch of well-meaning but clueless law enforcement professionals are reacting – or under-reacting, as it were – to what’s unfolding around them, which is at least an original take.