Having finished Cockneys vs Zombies last week, I thought I’d keep the ball rolling and take a look at Juan of the Dead, a Cuban zombie film in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead.
Juan of the Dead is the story of Juan (what a surprise), a former soldier turned slacker, who lives in Cuba. Juan and his buddy Lazaro get by as they can, and have learnt to make the best out of any situation. They notice that some of the locals start going crazy and eat anyone who crosses their path. The government blames this strange phenomena on the Americans, claiming that the people involved are dissidents. The madness continues to spread, and soon these dissidents have forced ordinary people off the streets and into their homes. Juan accidentally figures out a way to easily kill the dissidents, and decides to take advantage of the situation.
I went into this movie expecting a poor (at worst) or average (at best) Shaun of the Dead ripoff. What I got was something unexpectedly pleasant (in a macabre post-apocalyptic kind of way).
Juan isn’t going to blow you away with any deep or complex characters, but each of the characters does have enough going for them to make them interesting. Juan is a bit of a womaniser, Lazaro is a bit of a pervert, and almost all of the supporting characters have their own quirks that make them fun to watch. The only exception is Juan’s daughter, Camila, who is pretty normal (personality wise) compared to the other characters. Strong performances from all the actors bring each character to life.
The special effects are also pretty good, with buckets of real blood mixed in with a few litres of the computer generated variety, frequent decapitations, and a few other interesting methods of zombie destruction. Unfortunately, the movie does occasionally resort to off camera kills instead of showing the action, but these shots are few and far between.
The story unfolds well enough at the start, but towards the final act Juan starts to lose a lot of steam. The movie makes some pretty insane leaps in terms of story, which don’t really fit into the film. As over the top as Juan had been up until the final act, some of the events that occur near the end just seemed ridiculous. The solution that Juan comes up with in order to save the day, as well as some of his actions towards the end had me asking myself “Really? Did that just happen?”. I would have been fine with this ending if the movie had gradually ramped up towards this kind of ending, but some of the crazier parts just come out of nowhere.
But if you’re the kind of person to pick up this movie, you’re probably not going to be worrying too much about the story. The main question you’re going to be asking yourself “Is it funny?”
I’m here to tell you it is. It’s hilariously funny. Juan of the Dead manages catches you off guard with more than a few unexpected comedic twists. These situations are usually hilarious and had me bursting with laughter. The quirky characters also add to this, but I don’t want to say too much in case I spoil some of the funnier moments.
Movie rating: Jaun of the Dead loses a bit of steam towards the end, but is a really funny movie. It’s not quite on par with Shaun of the Dead, but it’s very, very close.