Juan of the Dead (Juan de los muertos) (2011)
By 2011, finding a zombie film with something new to say was pretty difficult, but writer/director/Cuban Alejandro Brugues managed to do just that with his bloody political satire Juan of the Dead.
First, what a kick ass title. Honestly, that’s a lot to live up to, aligning yourself to three of the great zombie flicks, both Dawns and Shaun of the Dead. That’s heady company, begging the comparison of Dawn’s scathing social commentary and Shaun’s ingenious wit. Juan actually survives this comparison.
Breathtakingly and unapologetically Cuban, the film shadows slacker Juan and his layabout pals as they reconfigure their longtime survival instincts to make the most of Cuba’s zombie infestation.
I’m sorry – dissidents. Thankfully the Cuban media is on top of this situation, letting the faithful patriots know that the violent, flesh-hungry villains outside are all dissidents. You old, fat auntie? Dissident. Paperboy, missing a foot and dragging himself toward that priest? Dissident.
One of a thousand hilarious touches is that the word zombie is never used – even Juan and his friends thoughtlessly refer to the mayhem happy characters as dissidents. It’s a whole new approach to the zombiepocalypse – not to mention social satire – and it’s entirely entertaining.
Alexis Diaz de las Villegas is outstanding as longtime, intentional loser Juan. Brugues surrounds him with a charmingly disreputable posse ready to take on the dissidents and find freedom – if that’s what they want.
It’s such a clever, eye-opening film with some added oomph via soundtrack and closing credits animation. Juan of the Dead promises one killer dia de los muertos!
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