The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.
Responding to a complaint from Farmer Frank Miller regarding a missing chicken, Centerville police officers Cliff Robertson and Ronnie Peterson briefly confront local eccentric Hermit Bob in the woods. On their drive back to the station, Cliff remarks that it is still daylight after 8pm while Ronnie notices his watch and cellphone stopped working. Farmer Miller talks about Hermit Bob with hardware storeowner Hank Thompson at the local diner. Hank hears a worrisome radio report about polar fracking. Hank and diner waitress Fern also wonder why it is not dark outside.
Following a news report seen at the Centerville Juvenile Detention Center, Geronimo tells fellow young inmates Olivia and Stella that polar fracking has altered the Earth’s rotation. Deliveryman Dean drops off rare magazines with gas station owner Bobby, who also sells pop culture memorabilia out of his store. Moonlight Motel owner Danny Perkins watches broadcaster Posie Juarez’s news report about pets behaving strangely. Farmer Miller also notices that his farm’s animals have disappeared.
Cliff and Ronnie regroup with Mindy Morrison at the police station. The three officers discuss the strangeness going on around Centerville. Ronnie and Mindy leave Cliff alone with the corpse of town drunk Mallory O’Brien for the evening. Hank, Fern, and overnight cleaner Lily discuss Mallory at the diner. After Hank leaves, Lily tells Fern about Zelda Winston, the odd new undertaker at The Ever After funeral home. Meanwhile, Zelda practices her sword skills in front of a Buddha statue in the funeral parlor’s backroom. Two zombies obsessed with coffee reanimate when night finally falls. The two zombies maul Fern and Lily inside the diner. Hank summons Cliff, Ronnie, and Mindy to the diner when he discovers the bodies in the morning. Ronnie tells Cliff he believes zombies slaughtered Fern and Lily.
Zoe and her traveling companions Jack and Zach stop for fuel at Bobby’s gas station. After buying Sturgill Simpson’s “The Dead Don’t Die” CD from Bobby, Zoe and the two young men check into Danny’s Moonlight Motel. Cliff and Ronnie discuss the diner murders with Danny. The two officers meet Zoe, Jack, and Zach while at the motel. Danny mentions that his cats went missing. Olivia, Stella, and Geronimo also discuss the diner murders at the juvenile detention center. Geronimo suggests an impending zombie apocalypse is responsible for the deaths.
Cliff and Ronnie find open graves when they investigate the cemetery. Hermit Bob spies on the men from a distance before separately concluding zombies are loose. Ronnie gives Cliff guidance on how to kill zombies. Bobby and Hank have a similar conversation as they prepare weaponry. More zombies rise from the dead that evening. Danny is attacked at his motel and turns undead. Zoe, Jack, and Zach lock themselves in their room after a Posie Juarez news bulletin warns them of the danger.
Cliff and Ronnie bring supplies back to the police station and tell Mindy about the zombies. Mallory O’Brien reanimates. Ronnie decapitates Mallory. Two corpses reanimate inside the funeral home. Zelda beheads them with her sword. Zelda then meets with Cliff, Ronnie, and Mindy. The three officers leave Zelda at the station while they go out on patrol together. Cliff, Ronnie, and Mindy find Zoe and her two friends dead when they investigate the motel. Ronnie beheads all three bodies to prevent them from reanimating. Ronnie takes Zoe’s Sturgill Simpson CD, which Cliff later throws out of the car window.
Hank and Bobby are overrun by zombies while holing up in the hardware store. Hermit Bob sees zombies mauling Farmer Miller. Geronimo, Olivia, and Stella flee the juvenile detention center when zombies overtake the building. Zombies surround the patrol car when it gets stuck. Unable to deal with her anxiety after seeing her undead grandmother, Mindy exits the vehicle and lets the zombie horde kill her.
Having previously driven through town, Zelda continues slashing her way through zombies on foot. Zombies amble away from the patrol car as a UFO suddenly arrives to hover over Centerville Cemetery. Cliff and Ronnie observe in astonishment as the UFO beams up Zelda and flies away. Cliff and Ronnie decide to go on the attack. The two officers exit their car and begin killing undead Centerville residents including Bobby, Famer Miller, and Danny. Cliff becomes upset when he sees Ronnie behead Mindy. Zombies eventually overwhelm Cliff and Ronnie. Hermit Bob observes the fray through binoculars while commenting to himself about the situation’s metaphoric meaning.
In a small town called Centreville two police officers – Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), and Officer Ronnie Petersen (Adam Driver) – are responding to a call about a stolen chicken. Farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) reported the missing chicken and his belief that Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) is the thief. Officers Cliff and Ronnie confront Hermit Bob in the forest he lives in. Bob shoots a warning shot at the officers to leave him be. Ronnie asks Cliff if they should take him in, but Cliff says no and the two leave. In the patrol car, Cliff tells Ronnie that he has known Hermit Bob since they were young and Bob has never done anything to harm anyone. He also states he thinks it’s unlikely that Bob was the one to take the chicken. The two discuss how the sun is still bright in the sky despite it being after eight at night. The police radio cuts out while they are talking to Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) who is back at the station. Ronnie’s cell phone and watch have also stopped working. Ronnie tells Cliff that “this isn’t going to end well,” which is something he continues to repeat frequently throughout the film. Officer Ronnie turns on the regular radio in the car to the song ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ by Sturgill Simpson. When Cliff asks Ronnie why he loves the song so much, he replies that it’s because it’s the theme song of the movie – the first of many fourth-wall breaks in the movie.
In a local diner, Hank Thompson (Danny Glover), Farmer Frank Miller, and a diner waitress Fern all listen to a radio news report about polar fracking. The government and fracking companies claim that the fracking is causing no harm to the earth. The three questions also question why it is still bright outside.
At Centerville Juvenile Detention Centre Geronimo, Olivia, and Stella watch a news report on the television that states that the polar fracking has caused the earth to spin off its axis. Geronimo is kicked off of the girl’s floor by a worker there. Dean (RZA) a deliveryman for ‘WU-PS’ drops off rare comics for Bobby Wiggins’s (Caleb Landry Jones) gas station shop where Bobby also sells movie and comic book memorabilia. Bobby asks Dean for words of wisdom to tide him over as he will not see Dean until his delivery next week. Dean replies, “The world is perfect. Appreciate the details.”
Motel owner Danny watches a news report about pets beginning to disappear or act strangely. Danny searches and cannot find his own cat. Farmer Frank Miller goes outside of his house to look for his dog and finds it lying in the shade beneath his car. The dog ignores Frank’s calls runs away. Frank looks around to realize all of his farm animals are missing.
At night Fern and cleaner, Lily talk about Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), the new undertaker The Ever After funeral home where Lily also cleans. Lily tells Fern that Zelda is quite odd and difficult to understand due to her Scottish accent. Zelda is then shown practicing with a katana in a back room of the funeral home.
Two zombies reanimate from their graves and make their way to the diner. They kill and begin to eat both Fern and Lily before becoming distracted by coffee sitting at the counter. They drink, smash the cups onto the ground, then leave.
In the morning, all three officers respond to a call to the diner where they find Fern and Lily dead. Ronnie tells Cliff that he believes that zombies are responsible, but Cliff does not take him seriously. Zoe (Selena Gomez) and her friends Jack and Zack are traveling on the road when they stop for gas and drinks at Bobby’s gas station. They check into Danny’s motel in town and are told by Officers Cliff and Ronnie to lock their door and to not go out after dark. At the juvenile detention center, the three teenagers discuss the deaths. Geronimo also suggests zombies before being kicked off of the girl’s floor again.
Cliff and Ronnie investigate the cemetery and find the two open graves. Hermit Bob watches from the forest and concludes that this is a zombie apocalypse. The two officers are in their patrol car, going to houses to warn people to stay inside and stay safe. Cliff asks Ronnie how one would kill a zombie to which he responds you need to kill the head. Bobby and Hank have a similar conversation inside of Hank’s hardware store. The two plan to lock themselves in the store with plenty of weapons.
All the dead from the graveyard reanimate at night, and Danny is attacked and killed at the motel. Cliff and Ronnie bring weapons back to the police station and inform Mindy about the zombie situation. The body of the town drunk who recently died while in the drunk tank (Carol Kane) reanimates and repeats the word ‘Chardonnay’ until Ronnie cuts her head off. Zelda kills two corpses with her katana in the funeral home before walking over to the police station. The officers leave Zelda at the police station to watch over the phones while they patrol but agree to meet her in the cemetery soon. The three officers find Zoe, Jack, and Zack all dead in their motel room. Ronnie cuts off their heads in case they reanimate, and Mindy is disgusted by the act.
Farmer Frank kills a few zombies on his porch before being overrun. Hermit Bob is seen watching from the forest eating the chicken that he did steal. Hank and Bobby hold their own pretty well in the hardware store. They board up the front door but forget about the back door where the zombies break in and kill them. Geronimo, Stella, and Olivia hide in a closet at the juvenile detention center to avoid the zombies in the hallway. When the zombies leave the detention center, the teenagers escape, presumably to safety.
The zombies are seen going to the places and doing the things they loved when they were alive. The zombie children are seen at Bobby’s gas station taking candy while the adult zombies are seen dragging the items they loved through the streets. Additionally, the zombies are seen on their smartphones and remarking about Wi-Fi.
Officer Cliff gets the patrol car stuck in the cemetery because he was driving over zombies instead of avoiding them as Mindy asked. Mindy is frustrated with Ronnie and Cliff’s lack of emotion and distress in their current situation. A hoard of zombies surrounds the car, and Mindy’s grandmother is discovered to be one of them. Mindy cannot take the stress anymore and exits the car to join her grandmother. Zelda has made her way to the cemetery in Ronnie’s small Smart car, easily maneuvering to avoid the zombies in the street. The zombies begin to move away from the parole car when a UFO arrives. Zelda is beamed up, and the UFO flies away. Cliff remarks that he always thought Zelda was weird. The two remaining officers decide that if they are going to die, they should do so fighting. They get out of the car and begin killing the zombies together. Hermit Bob watches the officers fight and comments that with everyone being obsessed over things, people have lost their souls for gold. Ronnie and Cliff are overwhelmed by the zombies, and Hermit Bob remarks that it’s a “fucked up world.”