Have you seen Juan of the Dead yet? No??! Come on, man...you're kidding...right?? It is a hugely satisfying film on mostly every level and I know you would love it. As a matter of fact...let's discuss...shall we?
Alejandro Brugués is mostly known for his...ummm...well...I actually don't really know what the hell he's known for. I've never heard of Alejandro Brugués until this film. But, I will say that he has my attention. Brugués does a great job pacing everything in Juan of the Dead, as well as writing it. Horror is a tough kind of film to pull off, as it is. Throw in some natural comic timing...and things can go south quickly. Just watch Vampires Suck for further evidence. However, Brugués creates something truly memorable and heartfelt with this film. And he made me spit out my Boo Berry cereal in laughter. So, there's that.
The events of the film start off much like any other zombie film. On any given day while everyone is going about his or her normal routine. Juan is just your every day Cuban deadbeat out looking for the next big score. During a fishing excursion with his BFF, Lazaro, the two discover something disturbing lurking in the waters. So, they decide to shrug it off as an isolated incident. It's not until they get back to shore that the two start to notice that something is going around.
One thing about these kinds of films that can either make or break them is the performances by everyone involved. Thankfully, Juan of the Dead is filled with great actors that pull off memorable performances. At first, Alexis Díaz de Villegas comes across as sort of awkward and incapable of becoming the film's titular hero. But, once the animated credits role you won't be able to think of a better actor in the role. Especially after the decision Juan makes at the very end. It's a moment that provokes pride and character fulfillment.
Same goes for the rest of the cast. Everyone is so great that once certain characters get dispatched, you genuinely feel for them. There's one scene after the halfway mark that really gives you a good sense of the friendship that both Juan and Lazaro share. It's a scene that tugs at your heart and elicits serious laughter within moments. I, personally, ended up searching for Boo Berry ghost marshmallows all over my godamn carpet. Brugués does such an amazing job with all the characters that he creates...it all adds to the genuine experience.
The only thing that I can think of that keeps Juan of the Dead from being a true classic is the fact that Shaun of the Dead exists. You could literally make a movie night screening both films back to back and feel like you're watching a different point of view of the same movie. I suppose the main thing that sets Juan of the Dead apart is the sense of political strife it employs within the film. The undead are labeled dissidents by the Cuban government and media. There's hints of immigration when Juan reveals his final plan. There's all kinds of intentional political undertones in the film (insert a Che image here). It's actually a refreshing revelation to be talking about a sincere Cuban zombie film that manages to truly take some serious jabs at the state of Castro's ravaged Cuba. It's unfortunate that some might walk out of this film thinking that it echoes its British cousin.
Still, Juan of the Dead is a highly entertaining Zom-Com. It combines some decent special effects and rich character performances, as well as a well thought out script. When certain things happen...you kind of question the moment...until the next scene. Then, the film convinces you that such things could happen. I really wish I could talk more specifically...but, this a film best experienced not spoiled.
In the tradition of the recent Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and the afore-mentioned Shaun of the Dead, Juan of the Dead is a film not to be missed. It's a film that sneaks up on you and leaves you wanting more. It's a bold film that moves you and cracks you up all at once. It also contains one of the best zombie dance sequences that you will ever watch!
Also...I think I'm in love with Andrea Duro now...
Thanks for reading,