Juan of the Dead (2011)

Juan of the Dead (2011)

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Juan wasn't having the best of days. Thanks to the zombies, he'd only managed to sleep with four women so far.
Juan wasn’t having the best of days. Thanks to the zombies, he’d only managed to sleep with four women so far.

Twitter Plot Summary:  A zombie uprising takes place in Havana, Cuba. Everyone thinks the undead are anti-communist insurgents.

Genre: Action/Comedy/Horror

Director: Alejandro Brugues

Key Cast: Alexis Diaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro, Andros Perugorria, Jazz Vila, Eliecer Ramirez, Susana Pous, Pablo Alexandro Gonzalez Ramy

Five Point Summary:

1. How does Juan get these women to sleep with him? The man must be a magician.
2. Does nobody realise that these are the undead? Have they never been seen in Cuba?
3. Gratuitous male nudity. Ladies, complain no longer.
4.  A Braindead reference. Nice.
5. The inevitable downbeat finale… or is it?

First impressions based on the title alone instantly make you think that Juan of the Dead is a cheap cash-in on Shaun of the Dead, the setting transposed from London to exotic Cuba. But no, rest easy weary traveller, for JOTD is not a cheap cash-in of what was already a loving homage to the genre. No, it’s got much more style and substance than that.

Juan is a strange looking guy living in Cuba. Bedecked with a John McClane-style white vest, he somehow has an irresistible quality that makes women love him (if he were real, I’d track him down and seek the answer). Just as he thinks life can’t get any better, a zombie outbreak takes place on the island and, seeing an opportunity to make some money (the filthy capitalist), he starts offering his services as a zombie killer. He’s aided by three friends – a stylish gay man, a hulking brute who faints at the sight of blood, and his best friend who’s a loveable cad. The story itself really isn’t up to scratch – it seems to lose impetus around the middle – but that’s less of an issue when considering the characters used to populate this zombie apocalypse. They may not be the most thoroughly drawn out characters ever committed to cinema, but they are all at least unique in voice and style. Without them, it would be much less interesting.

The Black Friday sales went down incredibly well in Cuba.
The Black Friday sales went down incredibly well in Cuba.

JOTD takes great delight in subverting the established tropes of the zombie genre, following the standard zombie outbreak template but veering off in a number of different directions, enhancing the already potent sense of dissent, whimsy and anarchy that would normally be frowned upon in a communist state. Suffice to say it’s also a very funny film. Many of the jokes are not specific to Cuba, so whilst it’s subtitled it never excludes the international audience. Fans of the zombie genre, of which there are many, should at least find entertainment in the genre subversion taking place, and also be delighted in the fact that this is in itself a completely new take on the genre. Who’d have thought that Cuba would be an ideal setting for a zombie film?

The script may not be as honed as its similarly named brethren Shaun…, but in terms of providing an entertaining movie it delivers. There isn’t a huge amount of blood and violence so it won’t detract the generally more easygoing comedy crowd, but there’s enough to satiate the needs of the horror fan as well. Comparatively, the humour is consistent throughout and proves that many of the more original ideas appearing in cinema lately all stem from what is considered “World Cinema” – in other words anything not produced by Hollywood. Juan fits perfectly into this template as it doesn’t feel the need to convert everything into English (subtitles will do just fine, thanks) and the style of the film is heavily influenced by Cuban attitudes. I would go so far as to say that Juan of the Dead is the zombie movie equivalent of System of a Down – it’s a familiar beast but with a regionalised style/ideal behind it. Sometimes, that’s all we want.

Favourite scene: The beheadings in Revolution Square. Blatantly CGI but still rather cool.

Quote: “Juan of the Dead, we kill your beloved ones.”

Silly Moment:  The big guy can’t stand the sight of blood. He’s not going to last long is he?

Is there an Alan Rickman style plummet?: Yes

Score: 3.5/5

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