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Author Information

Andrea is a contributing writer to The Hudsucker when she’s not rescuing stray cats or working as a graphic designer for an advertising agency way less glamorous than the ones in Mad Men. She loves pizza a lot. Follow her on Twitter as @pizzzaa.

“Juan of the Dead”: Mojitos and Zombies

Juan of the Dead is a Cuban zombie movie that combines blood spatter with Caribbean flavor and political undertones. There’s a bunch of stuff that I never thought I’d write together in a sentence. While politics and comedy in zombie movies are nothing new (Juan of the Dead‘s title borrows from British comedy Shaun of the Dead which at the same time comes from George Romero’s film Dawn of the Dead), this is a weird little film like nothing I’ve seen before.

Image Credit: La Zanfoña Producciones 2011

Image Credit: La Zanfoña Producciones 2011

Our leading man Juan is a 40ish guy living in modern day’s communist Cuba. He’s a cool, easy going slacker that spends his time chilling in his Habana neighborhood doing not much more than drinking rum, hanging out with his buds and sleeping with the lady from the apartment below. He does have a dark edge to him though as he’s apparently a bit of a con man on the side and prides himself of being able to survive and even make a profit out of any situation. Of course, this being a zombie movie, Zombie Apocalypse arrives out of nowhere and changes Juan’s peaceful island existence. While hilariously nobody seems to know what zombies are and state media keeps calling them “pro yankee dissidents”, Juan teams up with his BFF Lazaro, China the transvestite, China’s muscly friend El Primo and Lazaro’s hot son California to create a business dedicated to kill all these weird f*ckers that are going around terrorizing the neighborhood. As the movie progresses Juan’s main concern becomes his estranged daughter Camilla and trying to get her to Miami to reunite her with her mother. Juan doesn’t know if the situation in Miami is any better but he can only hope that leaving the island will bring a better future for his daughter.

Liked

I found JotD hilarious; there’s a strong sense of political satire that might get lost on some viewers but most of the laughs come from character moments and wacky and unexpected situations. There’s also a lot of dark humor going on as our leading characters are not exactly what I would call honorable and will do things like accidentally killing adorable old ladies. But on the bright side, most of the time they feel really bad about it. The acting from the main characters is spot on and they create a charismatic gang of zombie killers that you really grow to root for and care about despite their flaws. The two leads, Alexis Díaz de Villegas and Jorge Moline are specially good as Juan and his best friend and sidekick Lazaro; they have great comedic timing and a believable bond and chemistry. Director Alejandro Brugués creates a gritty yet loving atmosphere of Habana with a chill Caribbean attitude all over the place that kind of makes you wanna sit back with a mojito. There are plenty of impressive action sequences where you really wonder how they achieved that with the limited budget they had.

Disliked

My major problem was, as it often happens in this type of movie, that our leading characters always escaped from danger a bit too easily. I never really feared for the lives of the main guys and that sort of killed the suspense at times. Also, some of the special effects are a bit on the shoddy side but it’s a minor gripe as it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the movie.

Hotness Award (hey, it’s important)

Andros Perugorria plays hot pothead California. Image Credit: La Zanfoña Producciones

The Hotness Award goes most definitely to Lazaro’s son California. He may be a clueless pothead but he’s just dreamy, Juan even has to tell his daughter he has herpes to keep her away from him (not cool Juan, not cool).

In Conclusion

Juan of the Dead is a fun, fresh zombie comedy that is sure to entertain fans of the genre. I saw it with some friends at a pre-Halloween outing and we all laughed through and through. The movie makes a strong political commentary but it’s never preachy or overbearing so it can be enjoyed by all audiences, whether they’re familiar with the Cuban/American conflict or not. Most of all, JotD is unique, it felt like nothing I saw this year and that’s definitely a characteristic I enjoy in my movies. Juan of the Dead is out on DVD in the U.S.

3 ½ pizzas out of 5

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