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Overall Rating
3.86

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look85.71%
Just Average: 14.29%
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1 review, 1 rating


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Juan of the Dead
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by Jay Seaver

"Capitalism isn't dead in Cuba, even when much of the population is."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Juan of the Dead", like many recent zombie flicks, falls into the category of horror movies that are far more glib than scary. It occasionally feels like it misses opportunities for going that route, but thankfully it is more often than not able to make the gross out gags and satire work.

A pair of middle-aged Cubans, Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and Lazaro (Jorge Molina), are on a raft just outside of Havana, but they are fishing rather than fleeing - although when Lazaro hoists the weird corpse, fleeing might have been wise. Insstead, they return to their poor neighborhood and are there when the zombie outbreak begins in earnest. While rescuing his daughter Camila (Andrea Duro) - in town to visit her grandmother and definitely not him - Juan discovers that he has a knack for dispatching the undead, and soon he, Lazaro, transvistite China (Jazz Vilá), China's hulking boyfriend who faints at the sight of blood Primo (Eliecer Ramirez), and Lazaro's son Vladi California (Andros Perugorría) have started a business, helping people dispose of their former loved ones for a price.

Juan may not be the scariest zombie movie ever made - it's far more likely to use its splatter in the service of slapstick than shocks - but it can lay some claim to being among the funniest. Writer/director Alejandro Brugués fires a steady stream of lowbrow humor at the audience, and while the jokes themselves are generally unsophisticated, the execution is quite often clever, with the physical comedy especially well-choreographed. Brugués also has a good knack for when it's more funny for people to be fed up and when taking things in stride works best.

That is to say, Brugués and his cast have a handle on making that work. Alexis Díaz de Villegas is not exactly being called upon to reinvent the wheel, but he does find a nice spot between Juan being mercenary or indifferent toward the death and chaos around him and being sentimental and attached to his friends and neighbors. Jorge Molina is good at earnest buffoonery as Lazaro, while Jazz Vilá and Eliecer Ramirez make a fun and funny odd couple as China and Primo. Andrea Duro and Andros Perugorría do well in cute couple mode and when play off their characters' parents.

Production values are, admittedly, a little stretched at times - there is not, I'm guessing, an especially robust visual effects industry in Cuba - but for the most part, it's something one gets used to. The gore effects are capable though not bar-raising, and while the CGI is a bit rough, it looks good enough to sell the jokes that it is mostly used for.

Of course, part of what makes Juan work is that it's not just about hacking apart the undead in amusing ways. It works well enough on that level, but what gives it a little extra bite is how it satirizes the reality in living in a place like Cuba. Things fall apart even while the state-run media tells you that everything is fine or the fault of foreigners and dissidents, and the smart, rational thing to do is leave like Camila's mother has, but how is one supposed to do that? This is home, after all, regardless of the dictators or the living dead.

That gives it just enough kick to be interesting while other zombie comedies are just screwing around. It's rough at times, but forgivably so, and more entertaining than some of its polished contemporaries.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22946&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/22/12 10:35:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2011 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 47th Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 47th Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Chicago Fear Fest For more in the 2012 Chicago Fear Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

User Comments

7/24/12 Mick Gillies Pretty much the normal zombie style flick but below the average standard. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A
  DVD: 14-Aug-2012

UK
  04-May-2012 (15)

Australia
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  DVD: 14-Aug-2012




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