WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Dead Don't Die, in theaters Friday nationwide.
Not many zombie movies end on a happy note. Even if the core group facing down a ravenous horde does manage to survive, it's usually after most of their friends and family have been wiped out. The Dead Don't Die goes further than most films in the genre though, and ends on a genuinely tragic note, with all but a handful of the star-studded cast dead and brought back as zombies.
Let's break down all of the character deaths in Jim Jarmusch's zom-com, and how they bought the big one.
Younger characters tend to have a higher chance of survival in films like these. The Dead Don't Die sort of follows suit, but not completely. There are two groups of teens in the film: The trio of kids stuck in a juvenile detention center, Olivia (Taliyah Whitaker), Geronimo (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) and Stella (Maya Delmont), as well as the "hipsters from Cleveland," Zoe (Selena Gomez), Jack (Austin Butler) and Zach (Luka Sabbat).
Neither trio is prepared for the return of the dead. (You really can't ever be prepared for something like that, after all.) Olivia's group fares better, though -- hiding long enough for the undead to get distracted and move away. Their last appearance in the film sees them escaping juvenile hall into an uncertain world. They still have their lives, at least.
The same can't be said for Zoe's group, who trusted a single locked door to protect them at Danny's (Larry Fessenden) motel. A zombified Danny breaks in and kills all three teenagers off-screen. Investigating the scene, Ronnie (Adam Driver), is forced to behead each of them to keep them from reanimating, at one point even carrying around Zoe's head while talking to his fellow officers about why he beheaded them.
The central town is made up of various character actors, many of whom end up suffering tragic fates at the hands (and teeth) of the zombies. While people like Danny and delivery man Dean (RZA) are taken by surprise and turned early, others manage to put up at least some of a fight before they get killed. That includes Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi), who holds his own thanks to his large gun collection. But, eventually, he's overrun and dragged out of his house -- right into a gaggle of zombies.
Hank (Danny Glover) and Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) actually manage to last a while, boarding up the door to Danny's hardware store. They even kill a number of their attackers. But, in the end, zombies slip in through the unattended back entrance and overwhelm the pair. Although all three of them die off-screen, they reappear in the climax as zombies. Cliff (Bill Murry) can't bring himself to put down his friend Hank. But, he has no such reservations for Farmer Miller, who he dispatches with a quip.
The town's three police officers are the central characters. Although the narrative jumps around, this trio is the primary focus. Ronnie is the first to call out the mysterious deaths as zombies, something Cliff and Mindy (Chloë Sevigny) are reluctantly forced to concede. And, while Ronnie adapts pretty quickly to the situation, the others have more difficulty with it.
This comes to a head when the zombies surround their police squad car. The three sit there, unable to escape thanks to the number of zombies stuck under the wheels. Seeing her Grandmother reanimated proves to be too much for Mindy. The young woman jumps out of the car to "join" her Grandmother and is quickly killed by the horde.
In the final moments of the film, Ronnie and Cliff (who know this all ends poorly thanks to their fourth wall-breaking awareness of the script), decide to go out fighting. The pair step out of the car and actually manage to bring down a good number of zombies before they too are overwhelmed and killed.
Besides the three teens who manage to run away into an uncertain world, there are two other survivors. One of them is Hermit Bob (Tom Waits), who is accustomed to exploring the woods on his own terms. He's able to essentially sit out the conflict and avoid any zombies. He spends most of the film watching from his binoculars, commenting on the deaths of the townsfolk that he's relatively unconnected to.
The only other survivor is the incredibly strange Zelda (Tilda Swinton), the new Scottish mortician. The bizarre woman proves to be surprisingly adept at using a samurai sword over the course of the film. She quickly and efficiently takes down over ten zombies over the course of the film, giving her the biggest kill count in the film.
But, after typing a mysterious language into the police computer earlier in the film, a massive spaceship arrives in the climax. (No, really.) It picks her up and departs, leaving even more questions than answers. At least she gets to skip out on the zombie apocalypse.
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don't Die stars Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Sara Driver, Carol Kane, Iggy Pop, RZA and Danny Glover.