Monday, July 02, 2012

Honourable mention: Juan of the Dead

This is a bit of a stretch – there is a mention of vampires for a brief scene in the 2011 Alejandro Brugués directed Juan de los Muertos. This is being billed as Cuba’s first zombie movie and I have no doubt that it is. It is also excellent, a genuinely funny film with lots of references for the (zombie) film geek. Much has been made of its political satire but I have read that Brugués never intended it to be political, rather everything that comes from Cuba has a political aspect as politics is still part of the Cuban lifeblood and lifestyle.

Alexis Díaz de Villegas as Juan
Essentially we have a zombie apocalypse scenario but what makes it special are the excellently drawn characters. Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and his sidekick Lazaro (Jorge Molina) are wide-boys who have made a living with tricks, grifts and scams. Drawn into their lifestyle is Vladi California (Andros Perugorría), Lazaro’s son, whilst Juan’s daughter Camila (Andrea Duro) is estranged from her father and visiting her grandmother as she and her mother live in Spain. Also involved in local petty crimes are the extravagant La China (Jazz Vilá) and his muscle bound associate El Primo (Eliecer Ramírez). As the zombies start appearing exponentially (referred to as dissidents on the local news) Juan sees a way of making money by starting a business… “Juan of the Dead... We kill your loved ones.

multiple stakes
As for the vampire connection… When faced with a zombie early on, Juan, California and Lazaro are trying to work out what it is exactly and the word vampire is mentioned. As the zombified old man is fairly restrained, for reasons I won’t spoil, they decide to try and test the vampire theory. They place a garlic braid in his mouth – to no avail – and then Juan stakes him, which of course does nothing. He is then staked multiple times, still doing nothing of course. After this they abandon the vampire theory and Juan gets a cross and tries to exorcise the evil spirit out of him – a reference, I felt, to Rec/Rec 2. It doesn’t take too long to work out that head trauma is the order of the day.

Juan of the Dead is one of the best zombie movies I’ve seen in a while and whilst the very short scene is probably a push for putting the film on the blog, I genuinely couldn’t resist.

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