Saturday, October 20, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 20 -- "Dissidents" is the new "Zed-word" : a Review of "Juan of the Dead"

A Spanish-Cuban collaboration, Juan of the Dead is a zom-com about a gang of low level crooks in Cuba who see their country's zombie infestation as a business opportunity, becoming zombie slayers with the motto "We'll kill your family for you."  They are slightly hampered by the fact that they have no idea what zombies are -- the Cuban government insists that they are "dissidents" being corrupted by America, and an early scene derives its comedy from Juan and company trying to slay a zombified neighbor like a vampire or exorcise it like a demon before hitting on the whole "blow to the head" trick -- but soon they are making a killing, so to speak. Unfortunately, the enterprise begins to take its toll on the crew, and they begin to wonder if staying in a zombie-infested Havana is the best idea.

Despite my general zombie burnout, I was pleasantly entertained by this film. Some of that I ascribe to the setting, which allowed for some political commentary, but largely I think the film works because Juan and his partners are not the typical horror movie characters; they're not fighting for survival, they're fighting for a quick buck, and are not ashamed to fake altruism to do it. The film allows them to maintain their selfish and largely amoral actions for the bulk of the film while still somehow making one character's noble sacrifice at the end feel earned. They are a pretty unlikely looking bunch of action heroes, but that makes the battle scenes even more entertaining.

Only the slightly negative side, the humor is often a little on the crude side, and there are a couple of scenes where the character lose all common sense for no other reason than to further the plot. And when an "American" shows up, his English is so heavily accented that I was wishing that he was subtitled as well. These weren't game breakers, but they were enough of a distraction to keep me from fully investing in the film.

Juan of the Dead isn't going to rank up there with my favorite zom-coms, but it's definitely worth a watch for fans of the genre.

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