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Being Cuba’s first feature length horror effort, Juan of the Dead has a lot riding on it. The premise is solid, if not as serious as one might expect a country’s first horror to be. When a virus begins to turn much of the population into the walking dead, Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and friends see a business opportunity.
Effectively charging people to kill off their infected zombie relatives, entrepreneur Juan and his motley crew seem unfazed by the zombie epidemic that suddenly hits their town. From sitting on rooftops watching the world go by (with the odd adulterous fling) to sitting on rooftops watching the zombies approach, their daily life seems relatively unaffected.
The people that populate the movie are all stock characters and take their guises to extremes; the flamboyant gay is in attendance as is the burly testosterone-fuelled lump. Even when the film tries to defy convention it does so in clichéd style with the big black macho man being squeamish whenever blood appears. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; Juan of the Dead is a film made to cliché – Even the name echoes Brit zombie flick Shaun of the Dead.
Director/writer Alejandro Brugés injects the film with humour that is hit and miss, often going for the obvious gag. Much of the film is, as would be expected, based very much on Cuban viewpoints and Communism and Americans are referenced throughout. The use of gore is admirable and adds a neat finish to the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film. Just don’t expect many explanations as to why anything happens.
Juan of the Dead is a fun horror but breaks no boundaries in its execution. None of it is exactly laugh-out-loud material, but it’s innocent enough to necessitate a watch.
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