Fantasia 2012: ‘Juan Of The Dead’ manages to overcome any zombie fatigue

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Juan Of The Dead (Juan de los Muertos)

Directed by Alejandro Brugués

Screenplay by Alejandro Brugués

2011, Spain / Cuba

It seems every country nowadays feels the need to produce an epidemic/zombie film, something they can call their own. And so Cuba’s first zombie flick gives a distinct cultural perspective to breathe life into an over-saturated genre by playing with local political and social entanglements of Cuba’s past and present. With a blend of social satire ala George A Romero and the post-modern meta savvy of Edgar Wright, Alejandro Brugués’s Juan Of The Dead takes repeated swipes at almost every aspect of the country including Castro’s revolution to the overall general state of decay of an island starved of resources. Juan De Los Muertos, a Spanish-Cuban co-production features a terrific script that has fun with the nation’s air of democratic paranoia as Cuban authorities try to convince their citizens that the walking dead are political dissidents and part of an American plot to overrun the region. Que Juan, our titular character who senses a business opportunity and decides to cash in on the crisis by running a zombie-extermination service called “Juan of the Dead”. The easygoing optimist coins the slogan “We Kill Your Loved Ones”, and armed with whatever weapons made available (an oar, harpoon, machete, etc), he resists the infestation of flesh-eaters with a little help from his friends/employees.

Only Brugués isn’t just using the revenant deceased as a tool to satirize half a century of Cuban history; instead he is pastiching everything Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, Peter Jackson’s Braindead (ass-kicking priest), Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (shark vs. Zombie attack), and much more. Shot on a limited budget of $3 million, Juan of the Dead has modest makeup and admittedly shoddy CGI effects but it overcomes its low-budget pitfalls to develop a personality completely its own:

As Sid Vicious’s version of “My Way” wells up on the closing credits, this familiar horror spoof might overstay its welcome for some, but for this critic it’s just enough to entertain. There are bits of physical comedy, visual gags and a cheerfully anarchic mixture of splatter, enough to keep horror aficionados more than happy: In one scene, a hundred zombies are decapitated with one single stroke. Yes the comedy is broad, and yes the story is ridiculous, and yes the film dips in pace midway, but there are just enough whimsical moments and deadpan hilarity to overcome any zombie fatigue.

– Ricky D

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