Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movie Review: Juan of the Dead (2011)

Juan de los Muertos/ Juan of the Dead (2011) written and directed byAlejandro Brugues

I didn't think I'd get to see this film. I was watching Mark Kermode's blog and he mentioned that he'd be at the Bradford International Film Festival this weekend interviewing Ray Winstone. Bradford is not far from where we live! I went on line and sure enough, the interview event is sold out. Then I browsed the catalog and saw this movie was playing the night before the interview. I went, I saw, but not Mark Kermode. Maybe he's going to the Sunday screening.

MPAA rating

Unrated as of this writing

ZPAA rating

Teens and up.

Gore level

7 out of 10--Pretty mild for a contemporary zombie movie--there's a lot of blood splatter but not the usual level of organs falling out (or even any); one zombie chewed on a suspicious-looking piece of meat; underwater zombies with a gratuitous shark thrown in; lots of zombie kills with various implements sticking out of their heads/bodies; several harpoon injuries; one awesome mass decapitation scene; a guy in drag.

Other offensive content

The language is pretty bad with f-bombs and other unnice words; small bits of human on human violence; a couple of discreet sex scenes (one guy starts masturbating while watching a scene, we see him from behind); lying; prolonged discussion of oral sex; one woman's boobs scene from the side in a non-sexual scene; one guy's man parts in a non-sexual scene; several naked guys' backsides; bad attitudes towards others, especial "dissidents" and Americans; disparaging capitalism while they go into business for themselves as zombie hunters.

How much zombie mythology/content

These are your classic zombies--they bite and spread the infection; they are mindless but ferocious; some are fast and some are slow.

How much fun

This movie is meant mostly as a comedy and I did laugh out loud several times. I think I hit the Kermodean standard of six laughs to be a legitimate comedy. I definitely left the theatre smiling.

Synopsis & Review

Juan and Lazaro are two fishing buddies who have a lot in common. They are looking for easy earnings without too much work; they like to drink on the roof of their apartment building; they have grown children for whom they haven't been the best fathers. One day while fishing, they catch a zombie, which they return rather than keep. They're current day Cubans...what are they going to do with a zombie?

Back at home in Havana, they continue their rather shiftless lives. Juan visits his mother-in-law and daughter briefly but can't really connect with either. He has some more rum on his roof and watches the world go by, often with a telescope. He sees Lazaro's son California (great name for a guy, right?) putting the moves on a girl and sends Lazaro off to play ball with him. Neither guy wants the son to wind up like them, though what more can they give than their own random and unambitious example.

Things start to change when people start attacking and gnawing on each other in the streets. The TV coverage says the government is taking care of things. Clearly that is not the case. In order to impress his daughter, Juan decides to open a zombie elimination service. "Juan of the dead, we kill your beloved ones, how can I help you?" is how he now answers his phone. They train some friends to help and try to keep their kids from falling in love with each other.

The depiction of Cuba is pretty interesting. It's rather squalid, like Russia in Night Watch, with barely any signs of the actual government. There's propaganda news on the TV, that blames the "rioters" on US scheming, or more commonly, blames "dissidents" for sewing anarchy in the streets. The characters are generally dismissive of the TV reports, though they do think it's time to leave when the TV studio gets overrun on air. Most of the people seem a bit shiftless but have fierce loyalty to their homeland.

The acting is pretty good. The main actor has a nice, practical stoicism in his performance and his friendship with Lazaro is genuine and believable. The CGI is a little obvious but not too distracting. A lot of effects seem practical. Many things happen just off screen, though the choice didn't seem so motivated by giving "less is more" horror than by saving the budget and not blowing up another car or having another zombie fall apart.

This movie is a lot of fun. It's not as great as Shaun of the Dead but is quite enjoyable.

Movie Trailer

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