Review: Juan of the Dead (2011, Focus Pictures)




Category: Horror-Comedy, Zombie
Directed by: Alejandro Brugués

Written by: Alejandro Brugués
Starring: Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro
Music: Sergio Valdés
Cinematography: Carles Gusi

We don’t see a lot horror films out of Cuba, or really any films for that matter, this was the first Cuban film for me at least. Director Alejandro Brugués presents us with a late-to-the-game zombie comedy with a unique setting. Alexis Díaz de Villegas and Jorge Molina, playing Juan and Lazaro respectively, are two jobbers surviving as small time crooks in a rundown Cuba. Both of them complain about their life in Cuba, but don’t really do much about changing it. One day a zombie outbreak occurs, the public confusing them for dissidents, and hell quickly breaks loose. At first Juan and a few of his crook friends capitalize on this by killing off people’s zombified loved ones for a fee. Eventually shit gets too out of hand so they look towards escape. There’s a side story involving Juan trying to win the approval/affection of his distant daughter.

The storyline is pretty solid as is the acting from our leads, although Lazaro’s stupidity gets annoying after awhile. For being a couple of petty, deadbeat criminals who have a total disregard for human life, they’re likeable. The gore is plentiful and the effects are good for the most part with some great looking zombies (though there are some pretty shitty CGI shots). A lot of the kills in the movie are pretty goofy and entertaining. This flick is strife with a lot of great humorous moments, although a good deal of them fall short. Throughout the movie is quite a bit sociopolitical criticism aimed at the Cuban government but not enough to come off as too preachy.  The film’s not perfect though, there’s a bunch of really cheesy moments and clichés that drag the movie down along with a weaker supporting cast full of stereotypes. Also the dramatic moments are too drawn out and sappy.

As with Howard Ford’s indie flick The Dead (shot in Africa), Juan of the Dead’s premise of a zombie flick in a foreign setting not really utilized before seems like a novelty, but it’s a decent zomedy with heart. As an over the top, silly apocalypse film it’s pretty entertaining. If you’re bored and can look past some of the corny moments to enjoy a fun, gory movie with a different setting then check this out. If you’re looking for a highbrow thriller then don’t bother watching this. Also if you’re illiterate and don’t understand Spanish you might want to avoid this since you’ll be reading subtitles.





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