Sunday, August 30, 2015

Movie Review: Juan of the Dead

Juan of the Dead (Juan de los Muertos) 
La Zanfoña Producciones, Producciones de la 5ta Avenida, Soundchef Studios Spain, Cuba, 2011. 
Juan of the Dead (Juan de los Muertos)
Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and Lazaro (Jorge Molina) are two lazy Cuban fishermen. One day they catch a zombie. Apparently the zombie has floated from Guantanamo Bay prison camp. They decide not to speak about the encounter. Lazaro has son Vladi California (Andros Perugorría) who is just as lazy as his dad. Juan's daughter Camila (Andrea Duro) wants to leave for Miami after better life. 
Jorge Molina and Alexis Díaz de Villegas
Lazaro and Juan meet a zombie
Andrea Duro
Juan and Lazaro spend their free time peeping women and begging for sex. They also do business with stolen car radios. Zombie outbreak starts but the government blames dissidents supported by USA. When neighbour's crippled old man dies and begins to walk, Juan and his friends have to quickly learn zombie killing skills (and also how to dispose the bodies). 
Zombie revolution!
Juan gets an idea how to get rich by killing 'dissidents' for pay. Juan is the veteran of Angolan civil war, 'Cuba's Vietnam' so he knows some combat and survival skills. First objective is to make sure that they do not run out of rum. Lazaro, California, transvestite China (Jazz Vilá) and his muscular but hemophobic boyfriend Primo (Eliecer Ramírez) form Juan's team. 
Jazz Vilá, Eliecer Ramírez, Jorge Molina, Andros Perugorría and Alexis Díaz de Villegas
China, Primo, Lazaro, California and Juan
As the group consist of lowlifes, collateral damage will happen but so what. The chaos is a chance to get rid of old enemies. Seriously, the characters do things their American counterparts would never get away with. They only draw the line at killing cows. 
Camila: "Can't you make a distinction between the good guys and the bad guys?" 
Lazaro: "Girl, in this country it's always been difficult to do that." 
As the business gets too hot and the paying customers get fewer, the team decides to expatriate to Miami. That's where Preacher Jones (Antonio Dechent) can help. Or maybe not. 
Alexis Díaz de Villegas
Bring it on!
The movie goes after "Shaun of the Dead" Caribbean style with more raunchier humour. The humour is macabre, in the style of Peter Jackson's "Bad Taste" or "Braindead". Numerous references to other zombie films are present as well some to "Enter the Dragon." There is even a reference to Lucio Fulci's "Zombie Flesh Eaters" with underwater zombies. However it is much more than just a parody of zombie genre. 

As a Latin horror-comedy it has its own fresh and irreverent style. There is enough gore for fans of zombie flicks. The zombies look brutal, but the zombie effects get a bit more generic towards the end. As there are few firearms in Cuba, most of the combat is performed using melee weapons, machetes, axes, baseball bats and Juan's signature weapon: paddle. There is surprising amount of satire on Cuban society and Castro regime, with many jokes that would require knowledge about Cuba to be fully understood. It is a wonder that the government allowed the production of this film. The characters are a colourful bunch, often stupid and callous but somehow likeable. Towards the end there are also some sentimental moments with some unusual twists. This deserves a status as a cult film. 
Rating: Very good 

Starring: Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andros Perugorría, Andrea Duro, Jazz Vilá, Eliecer Ramírez, Blanca Rosa Blanco, Susana Pous, Antonio Dechent, Eslinda Núñez, Elsa Camp, Pablo Alexandro González Ramy, Juan Miguel Mas, Argelio Sosa, Marisol Egurrola, Diana Rosa Suárez, René de la Cruz Jr., Sandy Marquetti, Luis Alberto García, Olga Lidia Alfonso, Pablo Baena, Vicente Javier Olmedo, Enrique Gadea, Manuel Herrera, Mailyn Domínguez, Ulyk Anello, Zoraida Rosario, Eduardo Armiento, Pavel Giroud, Carlos Massola 
Director: Alejandro Brugués

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