I wrote this off as an obvious Shaun of the Dead imitator. And it is. Ironically the thing that will probably attract casual viewers is the same thing that likely drive the core potential audience away. Casual viewers probably won’t get it, the core audience won’t see it.
Unfortunate. Because Juan of the Dead is quite good – not Shaun of the Dead good – but hey few are.
Set in Cuba and starring a guy who looks like the Cuban John Turturro, Juan is an amiable reprobate and slacker, looking for the easy buck and the easy woman, but not enough to justify more than minimal effort.
When his idyllic existence is first threatened by what the media call ‘civil unrest caused by US government interference’, even Juan see that it is a little different to that. Once even the most hardened haters of democracy must admit this is less an act of war than an act of zombie, they are too late to escape the chaos. With more dead than alive most only see loss.
Juan sees opportunity. Piecing together a rag tag vigilante team of cross dressers, like minded slackers and a well muscled man who faints at the very sight of blood, Juan decides to charge for escorts through zombie infested territory, with extra for zombie removal.
The film was already funny to this point, however the initial zombie onslaught lends itself quite well to a few scenes with great images and numerous gags both visual and dialogue driven. An underwater scene proving zombies have no need for oxygen is an eye opener, and when the now undead attendants of a vast orgy appear the result is hilarity.
Juan of the Dead is even more laidback than the inimitable British Shaun, and somehow even more good natured and amiable. It’s not nearly as creative, well plotted and frequently funny, but again, few are. Unlike many pretenders to the throne the cheap and watered down CGI doesn’t hurt the film, if anything it adds to the charm. Only one scene doesn’t ring true and smacks of over-reaching, but when 90% of the film is pleasantly surprising a little misstep here and there can be easily forgiven. Consider it the dud track on a very good album (do people even buy albums anymore?).
There have been a million entries in the over saturated comedy horror genre since Shaun beat the door down with a cricket bat. Few are as well realised, and from such an unlikely source, as this one.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Juan is such a likable guy that I hope they make more Juan of the ‘X’ films. For now well have to make do with this very good one.