Friday, January 6, 2012

TIFF Review - Juan of the Dead

There are two types of people in this world - those for whom the title Juan of the Dead is enough to see this movie, those for whom it isn't, and those who can't count. Keeping that in mind, this is another fun zombie movie.

The name immediately invokes thoughts of it being nothing more than a Cuban Shaun of the Dead rip-off/homage.  But it is far from that. While there are some obvious similarities, Juan actually takes things in some interesting directions.

The zombies are portrayed by the Cuban media as dissidents, and anarcho-capitalists under the influence of the United States.  As the situation gets progressively worse, the state-controlled media gets cheerier and more patriotic despite the fact that anyone can look out their window and see that things are going to hell.Yet still, the people rally and cheer to their obvious detriment. Meanwhile, our heroes are too jaded and lazy to bother getting excited.

That is, until Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas, who could be John Turturro's cuban brother) realizes the money-making potential in the situation. People are at home with loved ones turning into the undead. Juan and his companions all have some form of military training (a couple wars, and the constant threat of US invasion keep them primed), and have managed to kill their share of these dissidents already, so why not sell their services to those who need their loved ones taken care of?

What follows is part romp, part action movie, and what I can only assume is a large part social commentary. There's comedic and creative zombie kills, playing with language barriers when an English-speaking priest comes into play, and a pretty realistic (for lack of a better word) impression of how a bunch of talented, yet lazy miscreants would react to a zombie invasion in an isolated location.

But underlying it all is Juan's love of his daughter, his friends, and ultimately, his country.  This is a Cuban movie that both mocks the regime and professes its patriotism to home. Drop in some nods to better-known zombie fare, and you've got a more than worthwhile experience for the fans.

No comments: