Director: Alejandro Brugues
Juan of the Dead is a fantastically entertaining Cuban zombie film that has more than enough character and charisma to satisfy even the most jaded of genre viewers. With a fresh location, unique style, and an interesting cultural twist, the movie saturates its audience in a world that has rarely been showcased in its native land, let alone in a horror/comedy hybrid form. The end result is an outstanding tongue and cheek zombie flick that oozes with personality and pays enough homages to the originators and prolific filmmakers of the genre to garner it a respectable place among its flesh-eating predecessors. Juan of the Dead is truly a gem of a movie, so let’s get this review train rolling and introduce the new badass of horror cinema, Juan!
The film follows a man by the name of Juan, a despicable and opportunistic slacker who slowly comes to realize that his hometown of
Alexis Diaz de Villegas plays the titular character of Juan, the wily zombie killer who has a soft spot for conning people, saving children, and hooking up with loose women. Juan is unlike any character that has been depicted on the screen, because even though he is presented as the stereotypical slacker with no direction in life, he still manages to come up with some rather elaborate schemes and a plethora of inventive plans in order to bring in the green and live out a fulfilled life in his mind. Alexis does a great job with the character as he makes this despicable human being into a sympathetic and heartfelt lead. His charisma is also noteworthy, because it is not of the stereotypical ilk that we’re used to. Instead, Alexis allows the quirky tendencies of his character to define his charismatic nature. In replace of the cocky sure-headed and attractive hero, we get a man who is simply a survivor. He is neither swashbuckling nor notable in appearance, but rather down trotted, odd, and highly natural in his presentation. The humble representation by Alexis allows for both Juan and Cuba to really shine, making for an intimate portrayal of one man struggling to find his place within a country that he both clashes with but inherently is apart of and deep down loves despite its flaws and problems.
The rest of the cast is filled out by an outrageous ensemble of obscure characters that really inject a healthy dose of life into the proceedings. Jorge Molina takes on the role of Juan’s best friend Lazaro, an equally despicable miscreant who wears his pervert heart on his sleeve. The relationship that he and Juan share is rather heartwarming, though highly dysfunctional, and the concept of them being partners through thick and thin is highly effective through all the wacky adventures they get themselves in. Andrea Duro and Andros Perugorria take on the roles of Juan and Lazaro’s children, Camila being Juan’s only daughter and Vladi
Lastly another set of key players within this wacky group of zombie fighters is La
Aside from the actors bringing the film to life, Juan of the Dead is also vividly depicted by the visual splendor of the city of
Of course it’s not just all impressive scope and artistic merit with this film. There is also a heavy dose of fun to be had in the form of outstanding comedic moments, throngs of walking ravenous corpses, and a slew of imaginative ways to kill these undead bastards. The tongue and cheek nature of this film thrives during these instances, where we really get to see how the zombie killers do their massacring. Each member of the team has their unique way of dealing out death, and each is as impressively outrageous as the next. My favorite weapon of choice has to be Juan’s oversized boat oar which seems to fit his personality to perfection. When it comes to actually displaying these bloody kills, the film doesn’t shy away from the goriness of the moment but relishes in them, often in absurd and entertaining ways. The name of the game in this movie is fun, and that’s what you get with the overwhelming combination of creative kills, inspired weapons, a gung-ho cast, and a rather impressive array of zombie effects for the size of the production’s budget. For being something of a first for Cuban genre cinema, Juan of the Dead really packs a punch and delivers the goods.
Juan of the Dead goes above and beyond the call of duty for a low budget production, as it brings a great deal of heart into its character driven story. Not only that, but the filmmakers were obviously quite confident in the obscure energy of its cast of characters, seeing as they are the lifeblood that keeps this narrative steaming along at a tremendous pace. Alexis Diaz de Villegas turns out a life-changing performance as Juan, while the rest of the cast gives it their all in making this post-apocalyptic world as alive and outrageous as humanly possible. Every interaction that the cast shares with each other is bursting with energy and busting at the seams with an unexpected flair that just jolts the narrative like a defibrillator to the heart.
Juxtaposed against the wacky nature of the film is the somber presentation of a society which has begun to decay from the inside out as its citizens quickly succumb to devouring each other within its fallen state. The added depth to which Alejandro Brugues decides to tell his zombie tale harkens back to the originator of the thinking man’s zombie film George A. Romero and his metaphorical laced series of dead-centric films. Brugues takes this concept and rolls with it, adding his own flavor and comedic sensibility which morphs this formula into a stylistic beast that has so much to say and says it magnificently. As for the visuals of this low budget wonder, they are outstandingly conceptualized and highly satisfying as they depict the ethereal atmosphere of
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