Review: Juan of the Dead

16 Jun

Zombie comedies are very common and this sub-genre has examples from right across the globe but this is the first Cuban zombie comedy I have heard about. I wondered if this would be any good and even though it wasn’t up to standard of Return of the Living Dead it is an amusing effort that has enough laughs to justify being called a comedy and enough tension and gore to justify being a called horror

Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) is a chancer who lives day-to-day in the poor end of Havana. He spends his days trying to con, steal or scavenge a living, womanizing or hanging about with his sleazy loser friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) on the roof of his apartment block drinking rum. Juan is content with his aimless life as a bottom feeder and is very proud of his status as a survivor. It’s this attitude which drove his ex-wife away and is now driving away his daughter Camila (Andrea Duro) too.

While at a street meeting of the local party Juan, Lazaro and Lazaro’s son Vladi (Andros Perugorría) see a zombie attack the crowd but Juan is just happy that it distracted them from discussing a spate of thefts from cars in the neighbourhood and slopes off. On TV the official word is that the violent attacks are by American-sponsored dissidents but this doesn’t make any sense to Juan because he knew the zombie. The following day one of Juan’s neighbours pleads for his help because her husband seems to be dead. He turns into zombie and attacks them. They manage to prevent the zombie attacking and try to figure out what he is. They think he is either a vampire or a demon but whatever he is he is killed permanently when struck on the head.

After Juan rescues Camila he tells the others about his plan to turn the crisis into an opportunity by offering to kill the dead for a price. His heartless opportunism disgusts Camila so he starts holding a zombie defence class to help other survivors. They still haven’t ever called them zombies but in his lesson he raises the inconsistency of zombies, noting that some are slow and shambling while others are very fast. Two gay men at the class La China (Jazz Vilá) and his beefcake boyfriend El Primo (Eliecer Ramírez) wants in on Juan’s scheme and while Juan is reluctant he agrees after La China puts down a zombie before it attacks him. There’s just one drawback El Primo faints at the sight of blood but he solves that by wearing a blindfold and striking out when La China tells him.

The film has a period of the five men fighting zombies until the customers just stop calling and then it turns into a more typical zombie survivor story. I had a good few laughs at the comedy which was often very crude. I really like the characters, who all feel very real. Juan is sleazy and selfish but he steps up to the task when called to because he cares about what his daughter thinks of him. Lazaro is a disgusting human being who really should not be allowed anywhere near a harpoon.

The effects are pretty good and we get a few nice gore scenes. The only drawback is the film did get a bit repetitive and dragged a little in the second act. It’s not an original film in any way except the setting in Cuba and it does probably shine a not very complimentary light on the country. I’m sure that Cubans will get the references to the hard times Juan talks about surviving and the attitudes to sexual depravity of Spaniards but I got the gist enough. If you can take another zombie comedy this film will do the job nicely.

Rating 7/10


Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Review: Juan of the Dead

  1. Victor De Leon

    June 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I must see this right away. sounds like a blast.

    • Peter Anderson

      June 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      It’s better than many other zombie films and that thanks to the cast who really seem like real people with humour that’s sick and tasteless as real humour


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