CIFF Review: Juan of the Dead


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I’m gonna make this short and sweet: Spoof/satirical films are a dime a dozen, but a large majority of them are rushed, terrible attempts at cashing in on the flavor of the quarter. Juan of the Dead is an obvious Cuban spoof of Shaun of the Dead, which itself was a spoof of Dawn of the Dead. However, to consider it just that would be selling the film short.

Juan of the Dead (Juan de los Muertos)
Director: Alejandro Brugues
Rating: TBD
Country: Cuba

Juan of the Dead is about the titular Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) and a group of cohorts, including the best friend/stereotypical chubby funny guy, Lazaro (Jorge Molina), Lazaro’s son and the Rico Suave-esque, Vladi California (Andros Perugorria), transvestite, China (Jazz Vila), strong man, Primo (Eliecer Ramirez), and Juan’s estranged daughter, Camila (Andrea Duro). For unexplained reasons, Cuban citizens are turning into zombies. Finding an opportunity to benefit from the outbreak (“It’s the Cuban way!”), Juan decides to start a business killing zombies for human families that can’t bear to see their family members undead anymore.

Juan of the Dead takes the best parts of Shaun of the Dead and Kung Fu Hustle, adds some political Cuban political commentary, and mixes them all together into a wholly entertaining film. If this hasn’t swayed you yet, allow me to go on. The film is grounded, yet very over the top with its action scenes. For a few examples, Juan’s a complete badass with an oar and pair of nunchucks as his weapons of choice, Vladi always lights a square and puts sunglasses on before he fights, and China strikes exaggerated poses with his slingshot. The chemistry between Villegas and Molina is not unlike the pairing of a certain British comedic duo. One scene late in the film affirms the camaraderie between the two that’ll leave audiences laughing. 

The film is shot well enough, but given its sparse budget, there are some shortcomings, such as the shoddy special effects. Depending on your take, the cheesy effects will either add or detract to how you feel about the film. For myself personally, they helped accentuate the cartoonish violence that I loved, but they might be too cheesy for others. Furthermore, the music is VERY cheesy and take you out of the film, regardless of what’s going on in the scene.

I came into the theater with high expectations, and Juan of the Dead didn’t disappoint. If you’re a fan of cheesy, over the top action, great comedic timing, or just a fun time at the movies, this film will be for you. It’s not quite at the beloved level Shaun of the Dead holds, but Juan of the Dead is damn near close to it.