Juan of the Dead ("Juan de los Muertos")
Official Selection, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival 2011
Official Selection, Stockholm International Film Festival 2011
“As a satirical comedy of life in Cuba under Castro, it totally kills - and keeps coming back for more” — Rene Rodriguez, MIAMI HERALD
Ah, Cuba! Its beaches and cut-rate vacation resorts, where tourists get their fill of Cuba Libres and sunburns, are the stuff of dreams. But behind this three-star facade hides a whole other reality. Juan knows something about it. He lives in a crappy apartment and doesn’t have much money. It doesn’t really help that he sits around all day with his friends doing nothing. When a zombie invasion hits with the speed of all-inclusive-induced indigestion, the decrepitude makes way for a nice bloodbath. The island ignites, Cubans drop like flies and word spreads… speculation about the Americans’ certain involvement in another attack by the regime. Everybody wants to get into boats and head for Miami at all costs. But not Juan. He and his gang have discovered a talent for taking out those they call the dissidents… and quite often a few of the living along the way. They decide to risk their lives to rid their fellow citizens of their loved ones turned zombies. Out of patriotism? Out of heroism? No! To make some cash, because, as Juan puts it, “it’s what we do in Cuba when things get tough.”
As you probably guessed, JUAN OF THE DEAD is a virulent critique of the “Castro and brother” regime and Cuban socio-economic situation, delivered in bursts of hilarious dialogue replete with off-colour humour. The intentions of the filmmaker, Alejandro Brugues — who’s originally from Argentina but studied in Cuba — are clear: create a zombie movie that blithely pokes fun at our Cuban friends, deconstructs certain tropes of the genre (do we really have to barricade ourselves to survive?) and, of course, makes you split your sides laughing. And he does it quite well! As its title suggests, JUAN OF THE DEAD is frequently a pastiche of Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD, having brilliantly reinterpreted several of its scenes (notably the famous sequence shot of the round trip to the corner store — almost surpassed here!). Avoiding the trap of homage gone too far, the film echoes other classics, like Fulci’s ZOMBIE (yes, with a shark!), all while offering bits of never-before-seen bravery (for example, an incredible dance with the living dead). Irreverent, intelligent and action-packed, JUAN OF THE DEAD is one of those rare gems destined to make its mark on popular culture with its memorable sequences and crisp dialogue.
— Nicolas Archambault