"Juan of the Dead" Adds a Cuban Spice to Zombie Satire Review

Zombies have seen an amazing resurgence in popularity in the last decade, and with the huge surge of movies pouring out of gun-happy America it can be hard to remember that fending off the hordes of undead with a machine gun is a truly American invention. In the rest of the world, where guns aren’t nearly as common and where ownership is considerably more restricted, the question of wiping out zombies requires more inventive solutions. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead resorted to cricket bats and old LPs, and now, the Cuban take-off on that title, Juan of the Dead, shows off an even more eclectic set of tools while infusing the it all with a bit of governmental commentary.

Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) and Lazaro (Jorge Molina) are friends and business partners, assuming you count theft and generally lazing about atop an apartment building in Havana as a business. Between affairs with hot housewives and drinking, they don’t have much to do. All of that changes when a strange sickness begins seeping into the general populace and people begin biting one another and going insane as a result. The government locks the city down to deal with the “dissidents”, but eventually society breaks down and an opportunity arises. Juan, Lazaro, and a number of other survivors begin a business where they’ll take down and dispose of family members who’ve fallen to the plague. Unfortunately, their get rich scheme doesn’t mean things aren’t getting worse, and eventually they must devise a way to escape Cuba.

The dry comic pairing of Alexis Diaz de Villegas and Jorge Molina makes for an entertaining rapport throughout the film, and the story has enough meat on its bones to give that comedy a sturdy frame to work off of. The supporting players outside that duo are less impressive, namely two oddly written caricatures: a slingshot-toting transvestite and his meathead, muscle-bound boy-toy who faints at the sight of blood (perhaps one of the greatest impairments in a zombie apocalypse).

Juan of the Dead makes great use of the Cuban cityscape and atmosphere of general civil discontent. Having the government label zombies as “dissidents” was a master stroke of political humor and is indicative of the wit that underlies the project as a whole. It’s rarely laugh out loud funny, but it has a cleverness that’s uncommon in zombie flicks.

DVD Bonus Features

There are none.

"Juan of the Dead" is on sale August 14, 2012 and is not rated. Action, Comedy, Horror. Directed by Alejandro Brugues. Written by Alejandro Brugués. Starring Jorge Molina, Alexis Diaz De Villegas.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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