2012, Spanish with English subtitles. Directed by Alejandro Brugues.
If you like zombie movies, and, specifically, comedy zombie movies, you’ll probably like Juan of the Dead, a low-budget Cuban spoof of Shaun of the Dead. I had my doubts at first, but it turned out to be rather fun, even with the bargain-basement zombie effects and shaky acting.
Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) is a middle-aged slacker in modern-day Cuba, content to survive by doing as little as possible. He lives on the rooftop of an apartment building, fishes with his best friend, Lazaro (Jorge Molina), and fools around with married women. The Cuba he lives in is isolated and bleak, with most people just getting by, and where no one really cares about politics or the government. He has an estranged grown daughter who despises him, and although Juan wants desperately to repair their relationship, Camila (Andrea Duro) is having none of it.
His problems are soon eclipsed by troubling radio reports of dissidents – people supposedly being organized by the US to sow discontent and disrupt the Cuban paradise – randomly attacking people. Over time, however, Juan realizes that the “dissidents” are really dead people who just won’t stay dead. Although puzzled – they’ve never heard of zombies – Juan and his friends see an opportunity to make money, and start a business called “Juan of the Dead – We Kill Your Beloved Ones”. Using oars, machetes, baseball bats, nun-chucks and slingshots, they hire themselves out as your friendly neighborhood kill squad.
The kills are messy, the humor is deadpan, and some of the characters are quite funny, like a big muscle-man who faints at the sight of blood. Unfortunately, some of their actions make no sense at all, and Juan’s gang seems to be able to move about with ease while other people are running from slavering hordes. They also seem to have a casual disregard for the mistakes they make, like accidentally killing living people.
But there’s an awesome vehicle, a love story, fast zombies, slow zombies…and even zombies that swim. (The makeup on the swimming zombie is actually pretty impressive.) All in all, a fun movie for fans of zombie films. I think some of the social satire probably makes more sense to people familiar with living under a repressive government, but it still translates pretty well.