For months, I have been waiting to see Cuba’s first horror film: Juan of the Dead. Written and directed by Alejandro Brugués, the film is a co-production between Brugués’s Cuban horror indie film company Producciones La 5ta Avenida and La Zanfoña Producciones, founded in part by the film’s Executive producer Gervasio Iglesias.
Obviously it was based mostly on Shaun of the Dead above other zombie films (just look at that font, brah), but that was mostly a tonal imitation. It also shares the overall theme of the slacker stepping up in the face of apocalypse and becoming the hero.
The difference in this case, however, is Juan isn’t really in it to be a hero. Juan is established as a petty criminal who rolls with the punches (as his speech in the preview, often repeated, states). When a band of “dissidents paid by the US government” ie, ZOMBIES, start killing Cubans in the streets of Havana, Juan and his posse of thugs see a chance to cash in.
This movie thrives on its characters: Juan and his best friend Lazaro are literal partners in crime. Lazaro has poor control over his fishing harpoon, to the detriment of group survival. Juan’s daughter Camila hates his guts, and is pretty good at Matrix-style wire fighting and smacking zombies in the head with a hammer. La China, a tiny transvestite with a slingshot, guides around El Primo–a mountain of a man who has to be blindfolded at all times because the sight of blood causes him to pass out.
My particular favorite scene is when the survivors are rescued by a man in a jeep wearing a ten-gallon-hat. The man only speaks English, with lines straight out of any survival-movie from Jurassic Park to Zombieland. He may even be trying to speak with an American Southern accent. The only problem is he looks like this:
This is in no way a detraction from the movie, but that’s pretty damn funny.
This is a pretty big recommend, so I won’t say much more about it. Enjoy.