There will be very few who will deny Cuban Zombie flick Juan of the Dead a day or two of basking in the limelight. It’s not that the film is remarkable by Zombie standards or even as a social satire or even as a straight out comedy, it’s just that at its heart it’s a film impossible to dislike. It has charisma and a lot of swagger. Diretor Alejandro Brugués who also wrote the piece received a modest budget of $3m, but has poured a lot fanboy admiration of not only the Zombie sub genre but lots of his favourite Directors style into the film that more than makes this a remarkable achievement.
Zombie afficianados, and for that matter loafers, should settle easily into Cuba’s premiere foray into the genre. It begins appropriately on a gloriously sunny day, something Cuba must have way too many of, our hero Juan (Alexis Días de Villegas) is looking at us while laying on his back on a makeshift float. Juan like most of us slackers, is one for the easy route. Why escape abroad to work he says, to his Sancho Panza, Lazaro (Luis Alberto García), when I can drop a line and eat. He is a collector he cynically declares, but above all says ‘I am a survivor’. Stern and idealistic words from our quixotic hero. But Alexandro Bruges wastes no time in raising the dead before Juan and his compadres are turning killing into profit. It’s what Cubans do best when things go bad. Organising themselves in the Cuban culling business, Juan de los Muertos. The satire also begins in earnest and Bruges proves to be a skilled and clever commentator. Distinctions between the Zombies and the Cubans themselves are cheekily narrowed. Even the Cuban government also is skewered gently as they blame the Zombies or ‘Dissidents’ on the US. It’s lightweight, but adds to the chuckles. Perhaps Bruges best bits though are the all out display of hanging testicles, and the the wonderful use of the harpoon by Juan’s sidekick Lazaro. It recalls more than a touch of back seat Tarantino.
So while the pace sometimes falters and some scenes are built up just that little bit too much without a pay off in the third act, it still should not detract from the overall enjoyment. Brujes throws in a lot characters, and dispenses them just as quickly. It compensates for the lack real scariness, but it works just the same in the overall story. Havana of course looks grim, no CGI is needed there, its decay and moldiness reminds us how fragile the whole place is. But audiences in the colder climes will definately enjoy some time in the sun. Seeing Juan knock back the rum just makes you want to book a flight to Havana before the real Zombies take the place over and put up those horror hotels.
Juan starts collecting your dead on 4th May 2012.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: ALEJANDRO BRUGUES
STARS: ALEXIS DIAZ DE VILLEGAS, JORGE MOLINA, BLANCA ROSA BLANCO, ELSA CAMP, ANDREA DURO, LUIS ALBERTO GARCIA, ANDROS PERUGORRIA, SUSANA POUS, ELIECER RAMIREZ, JAZZ VILA
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX