Saturday, May 7, 2011

Terrible Zombie Movie Challenge: Dead Men Don't Die

Elliott Gould delights us all in Dead Men Don't Die.

Recently, the host of the Mail Order Zombie podcast, Derek "Brother D" Koch, sent me three (!) full-length zombie movies on DVD. One of these was the infamous Buddy Bebop Vs. The Living Dead, which both Brother D and Scott "Need-a-Nickname Scott" Morris awarded a score of 1 headshot out of a possible 5. Not a promising sign. But Brother D said he compensated for this by sending me at least one "good" movie to balance out the awfulness of Buddy Bebop. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember exactly what he did send me, so I guess it's up to me to figure out which one that is.


With only three movies, my odds of finding the elusive "good" one are fairly high. And since Brother D has already acknowledged that Buddy Bebop is not it, my chances are getting even better. It has to be one of the other two films, right? I began my quest tonight with a 1990 film called Dead Men Don't Die starring Elliott Gould. Could this obscure comedy be the chosen one?

In a word, no. In two words, fuck no.

Right away, the film's packaging caused me to have serious doubts as to its quality. Dead Men Don't Die didn't come in a standard DVD box but rather a cheap case made of clear hard plastic with the title of the movie printed on flaps at the top and bottom. If you regularly buy your movies at the same place you buy off-brand laundry detergent and expired candy, you know the kind of case I mean. Besides this, the cover also depicted Elliott Gould seemingly dressed as a clown or mime and making a "funny" face like he was receiving a digital rectal exam from Freddy Krueger. Add to this some wacky mismatched fonts, and you have the kind of packaging that screams, "Ignore me! I am a waste of your time! Do not purchase me or rent me!"

Dead Men Don't Die somehow manages to be even worse on the inside than it is on the outside. Tedious beyond belief, relentlessly unfunny, and embarrassingly racist, this was quite a chore to sit through. The film's ugly and cheap costumes, shabby scenery, unconvincing makeup, and insipid music combine to make it an assault on the eyes and ears.

Briefly, the plot concerns an egotistical newsman (Gould) who is murdered while snooping on some drug dealers but is revived as a "voodoo zombie" by a Jamaican cleaning woman (Mabel King). Thrown into the mix are a bumbling cop, an ambitious female anchor, various thugs, and some other people you won't care about.

Dead Men is trying, I guess, to be a farce, but the writer-director forgets that farce depends on a furious and escalating pace and instead allows his film to become unforgivably sluggish and repetitive. The acting is very hammy and sitcom-ish for the most part, while Gould (who has given brilliant performances in the past) spends most of the film making moronic faces and grunting. Meanwhile, Mabel King's stereotypical character seems like a holdover from another era entirely. How sad that this was her last role.

To make matters worse, virtually the entire film takes place within one very unremarkable office building, so we spend a great deal of screen time looking at narrow hallways with low-pile carpet and drop-panel ceilings. It gets very monotonous, to say the least. The only element of visual interest here is a boom mic that enters the frame in nearly every scene. Seriously, the microphone gets so much screen time it should be listed in the cast.

I can only imagine that Dead Men Don't Die was made as some sort of tax write-off or as a way to launder money. There is no other reasonable excuse for making such a film. I cannot begin to catalog all the ways in which it insults the viewer's intelligence. Dead Men fails in seemingly every way a movie can fail. The people responsible for making it should be ashamed for having wasted perfectly good money and resources.

So in summary, this was not the good one.