Friday, September 7, 2012

Juan of the Dead (2011)

A while back, I mentioned that while most of today's zombie movies are unspectacular at best, you can still find a few that are worth watching. For every "Zombies vs. Strippers", there's an "Exit Humanity." Or in this case, it's "Juan of the Dead" a film that may not live up to it's English inspiration (few horror comedies do) but is most certainly worth a look.

While fishing one day, Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) and his buddy Lazaro (Jorge Molina) find something they weren't expecting-a zombie. Thinking not much of it, they kill the thing. When more of the walking dead begin showing up eating or turning people, Juan and his pals decide this would be a great time-to cash in. They start a zombie killer for hire service called "Juan of the Dead" (tagline: "We Kill Your Loved Ones"), and business starts booming. As things continue to go south for their homeland Cuba, it starts to become apparent that staying might not be the best idea.

Apart from a few misguided attempts at humor (mostly gay panic jokes), "Juan of the Dead" manages to stand out among the current pack of apocalyptic zombie movies. That's partly because it manages to through in social commentary that's actually worth listening to. Topics such as the desire the people to leave Cuba to the affects of government propaganda and Socialism vs. Capitalism are brought in, and thankfully are given room to breathe. Hell, the character of Juan himself is something of a metaphor for his home Country and the people who live in it. He's been through a lot, and not everyone like him, but at the end of the day, he loves Cuba no matter what.

Apart from that, this is just a really fun time. The humor is broad but mostly effective, with amusing running gags (the seemingly toughest member of Juan's crew faints at the sight of blood) and plenty of comical gore gags and colorful characters help anchor the whole thing. Speaking of which, you really grow to love the protagonists, as they all have their own little quirks that never grow overbearing, and thanks to the script both make you laugh and genuinely care about them. These aren't your usual horror movie tropes-these guys feel like real people. Add some strong performances, inspired directorial choices and a conclusion that's both funny and strangely touching, and you have a zombie comedy that manages to stand out.

If your tired of the usual horror/comedy fare that pollutes rentals and Redboxes alike, then this is the movie for you. You won't love every second of it, but it's sure to find a place in your heart.

Rating: 8/10

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