Juan of the Dead (2012)

Juan of the Dead is not a Cuban version of Shaun of the Dead. Yeah, it’s a zombie comedy and the title is clearly a rip-off of Shaun / Dawn, but it’s nothing like the Brit-centric rom-com-zom. Is it as good as Shaun of the Dead? Hell no… but it’s still strangely loveable.

Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) is a slacker who no-one respects; his best friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) is a wank-happy moron, his daughter Camila (Andrea Duro) hates him and he spends most days casually fishing in the sea or shagging the neighbour’s wife. Then the zombie apocalypse arrives in Cuba.

Unphased by the panic, violence and death surrounding him, Juan uses this unique ‘opportunity’ to make some extra cash… by charging people to exterminate their zombie infestations. Needless to say, this leads Juan and his “employees” on a dark, violent and morally-questionable journey.

There are some immensely memorable scenes in Juan of the Dead, from a floatlia of boats with an underwater surprise, a balcony attack and a street gauntlet of death that’ll impress most zombie-flick officionadoes. It is well tread ground, but with the unique backdrops and a generous amount of extras, it’s an impressively visual movie.

Unfortunately our protagonists are horrendously puerile, delivering a disturbingly large amount of sex and masturbation ‘jokes’ that systematically fail to hit the mark. They’re also insanely stupid and really quite horrible people.

Strangely the nicest characters are a drag-queen and her blood-phobic bodyguard. Juan and friends are horrendous opportunists, pilfering money off the dead, stealing an old man’s wheelchair (and leaving him to die) and only killing zombies for cash. They really are just absolute scumbags!

This is due to the uniquely styled comedy, which focuses on the crass and bizarre parts of the walking dead apocalypse, often playing on the idiocy and childishness of people rather than anything remotely touching ironic or smart. There is, however, a superb Cuban dance scene featuring Juan, a zombie and some handcuffs, but otherwise it’s pretty rudimentary stuff.

Despite this, Juan of the Dead has a real charm to it, with it’s funky music, sunny setting and a mountain of up-for-it extras who throw everything into their zombie-ing. It’s strangely loveable despite the characters! It is also uniquely Cuban and there are constant reminders of this.

At one point Juan utters “Fuck, in the end capitalisation is gonna take it’s toll on us” which fairly represents the general political under(and over)tones of Juan of the Dead, which constantly talks about dissidents, revolution, community, the evil Americans, iconoclasts and the Special Period! If I knew anything about the history of Cuba, it might’ve even been funny… Something about some missiles?

Overall Juan of the Dead is a great addition to a sub-genre of horror bulging with imitations, rip-offs and failed experiments. Despite its loathsome characters, Juan of the Dead is a genuinely loveable, endlessly watchable zombie flick with some superb moments. Well worth a watch.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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