Juan Of The Dead (AKA Juan de los Muertos) is fun Spanish-Cuban zombie comedy. If you’re like me, you just gotta appreciate a Z-film that shows its first zombie kill in under three minutes into the story development. Oh yes, it may be a new record!
Without any explanation zombies appear in Cuba and start eating people. Middle-aged slacker Jaun, along with his fellow small-time crooks and deadbeats, take to the streets of Havana to face an army of the undead. Emergency news reports are broadcast amid the chaos… The surge of living-dead have been identified as ‘dissidents’ revolting against the Cuban government. The regime accuses the USA for the attack. Everything is under control even when nothing is being done. Seeing opportunity, Jaun gathers and trains his friends to be zombie killers and starts a business called “Juan Of The Dead — We’ll kill your loved ones”.
For those familiar with the Cuban regime and its people, the movie is a hard critic to both — which is why it was never released in Cuba and apparently was only shown on-screen at film festivals. Juan Of The Dead attempts to mock every cinematic clichés (daughter hating father, friend about to die, farewell , even Matrix-style fights). The nuances of Cuban humor can get lost-in-translation to non-Spanish speakers — for example — in one of the most celebrated jokes, Juan is asked to kill a cow but he refuses because it is too dangerous; In Cuba killing a cow is worse crime than killing people.
Zombie film fans will will be pleasantly surprised with this film especially with seeing fun nods to Shaun Of The Dead. There was one thing I saw in particular that I have seen in another zombie film*. The film is in Spanish and subtitled — sorry, no over-dubs. This film is Not Rated, and aside from the zombie gore and violence there is some nudity (including z-film boobs) and adult humor/topics. Oh — and how do I rate Juan Of The Dead ? … Light Green to full Green. (*Select this line to read the spoiler –> Underwater zombies walking on the ocean floor that seem to be able to swim up if it means getting a bite … though that bite could come from a shark! Oh yeah, this was also done in Pirates Of The Caribbean. <– all the way to here)
Have you ever had the experience where someone you know excitedly says “Hey, ya gotta see this film!“? Then once you watch it you’re left thinking “What the heck was that about?”, or worse “There is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with my friend!” Welcome to to World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2.
Immediately you can tell that this project has a higher budget and is visually more satisfying than the 2006 predecessor. Then you get into the story and you start to see the problems…
The first thing you notice — as with the original film — is that the DVD cover is once again horribly misleading. The cover art looks better than the film, and it represents something other than the content of the film.
The zombies feel very non-threatening — even less than in the original film. The make-up is insufficient, the scares nearly non-existent, and the zombies are often so stiff they would be played better by untrained department store mannequins. Add to that, when it comes to shooting the zombies I get the impression that the British film makers don’t have a clue as to what firearms sound like anymore (especially in the scene pictured). The firearm sound effects left me non-pulsed — perhaps they were just the on-location recording of the blanks the actors were firing.
The biggest downfall of the movie…
… aside from the emaciated plot and the you-are-there hand-held cinematography — are some of the specific content choices that film makers Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates included. Various gangs of survivors prove to be even more vile than the zombies. This is well summed up in a review by FlickeringMyth.com when they wrote…
“There are a couple of, frankly, unneeded rape scenes (one on a female zombie) that just felt like Bartlett and Gates wanted to do some kind of rape revenge film, but gave up and worked zombies into it”.
Frankly it left this bagpiper & humble amateur zombie-film reviewer astounded. I cannot recall feeling this disturbed by any zombie film I have previously seen. This content included a challenged young man bullied into delivering a beating upon one of the primary male characters, and then pushed into committing a graphic rape/murder on one of the female primaries. I have to wonder where the writer and his co-director think that this was appropriate, or fit within the film! I also have to wonder about the actors (or even the crew) assuming they saw the script before they agreed to do the film — why would they participate in bringing this film to fruition?
Is there any redemption for this film?
There are elements to this film that really work — the albeit over-used zombie-trope military element, the military and civilian survivors trying to escape from England, and the guys who ambiguously appear wearing protective suits and gas masks. However it seems as though Bartlett and Gates thought that their ideas were so great — so sound — that they didn’t think to check their script or finished film with a third party. And if they did, they didn’t listen to them say “There’s some good stuff here, but over all THIS IS A BAD IDEA.” Or maybe they just half-assed it and figured this would fill a feature. In the end, it is as The Daily Mail described the film, it’s an “88 minute waste of electricity.”, and I rate it Red Blood.
Seriously, I’m starting to think I ought to make a list titled “Zombie Films To Avoid Watching“. Do you think I would have this one on it? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!
WOW, where to start? How about my rating for the 2006 film “Zombie Diaries” … Frankly, I’ve flip-flopped. Originally I gave it a yellow puss — very pale yellow puss. When I started watching the 2011 sequel I dropped it to a red blood. And then I saw more of the sequel and boosted the original flick back to yellow. Yep, that’s right, the first film is better than the second in this humble bagpiper’s opinion!
The back of the DVD case cites The Dark Side (whatever that is) as having said that this is “The best zombie film ever.”* If that’s the case, I’m giving up on zombie films. Fortunately, the are patently wrong in this regard.
(*I tried to find the specific article on their site without luck… did they change their mind, delete their review, and disassociate themselves with this film entirely?)
THE GOOD NEWS
This film could serve as insights to people’s different experiences before Jim wakes up in 28 Days Later — although this isn’t possible according to Wikipedia since “The second chapter, “The Scavengers”, takes place one month later.“, and the third chapter presumably takes place later still.
THE BAD NEWS
Imagine if you will Blair Witch Project (otherwise known as the worst bad filmever) but with the actual presence of a horror threat — in this case smatterings of amateur-actor zombies. Instead of a couple of Blair Witch guys screaming at nothing and pissing themselves like millennials, you get the audiobook version of World War Z giving insights to various people and their experiences as things fell apart due to the outbreak or mass presence of zombies. All of this is done in a you-are-there found-footage hand-held-documentary filming format … which I often find annoying because the filming is overly jerky and the audio is incredibly noisy with hyper yelling. In this case this looks like a an amateur film with decent execution
The film doesn’t begin to get interesting until 14 minutes in. It possibly starts to interconnect around 37 minutes. Perhaps one of the best things about it is that it gets an interesting look around 39 minutes when the visual switches to night vision.
Otherwise, what do you have in this film? Bickering Brits, who, if not for zombies taking over the world, would be complaining about Americans and claiming that they’re SO much better and nothing like us …. except for the bickering, complaining, and conceitedness, all-in-all failing to acknowledge that everywhere you go people are just people. Yep, everyone sucks just as much as everyone else everywhere else, including English people and even Canadians … but especially people in France. In truth, between the rigors of long term survival along with death and fighting off zombies, the stress level in such a situation would be pretty high so bickering seems realistic. The other thing that’s bogus — and common in movies — is that the characters are complaining about not having enough guns in a country where guns are highly restricted, and yet they’re instantly pretty damn good shots for people who are unaccustomed to firearms.
THE YOU-ARE-THERE PROBLEM
One of the things I keep thinking over and over which applies to this film and any you-are-there hand-held film — and I’m sure I’m not the first to ask this — why would anyone film all of this stuff?!? Everyone one of these types of films need to justify this, few if any of them do. Similarly, particularly a story that takes place a number of months, a year, more than one year, whatever — why are these folks bothering to still record, especially when they must be running out of film or disc storage space, how are they continuing to power their devices, eventually why would they bother? While the hand-held you-are-there style film making has a certain feel and effect, to a degree it is also cheaper to make, which may also be a motivator behind writing/creating a story in this fashion. Mostly, I just don’t think it works all that well or at least to say as often as these films come out.
Hopefully the 2011 sequel — World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries — is better. But then you got to wonder about a crummy film that gets the juice behind it to make a sequel … Did other audience members think it was good enough to support a second film? Are the film makers deluded or trying to fix their errors from the first film? Did I leave the stove on? Is the redhead at work flirting with me or does she flirt with everyone? Instead of using gel I wonder if I could use wood glue in my hair and then only have to style it once a week?
Well, I listened to some metal today — Zombie (EP), the 2010 release by The Devil Wears Prada. Frankly … not my thing. I’m cool with metal but I think Sesame Street is a much better gig for Cookie Monster. Something a guitarist pointed out to me years ago – he said “I love distortion, but it also hides the poor playing of a lot of musicians.”
This album did feature a few things that I enjoyed – things that switched it up and gave it any redeeming depth and texture …
Escape – Thunder at the beginning of track one … some speaking mid-track of a guy on communicating what he’s seeing over a walkie-talkie or a phone … a car (or some such) alarm being used musically … groaning zombies.
Anatomy – Starts out with the sound of a nearby chainsaw. It’s also really sweet when they kick into sound like they’re backed by a late-80s/early-90s boy band. Way to bring it back guys, right on!
Revive – There was a little bit of music and singing in here that wasn’t speed guitars and Cookie Monster. I’m good with metal speed guitars, drums, etc …. but the Cookie Monster thing …. bleh! Really there is very little good I can say about this track. Suffice to say, not everything is for everyone.
Survivor – I listened to this track three times before typing here. I can’t tell anything special about this track. It’s all the noise of the first four tracks and nothing terribly interesting.
In Conclusion… I may listen to this album again for a few of the ‘texture’ ideas, but I don’t see myself listening to it out of interest, inspiration, or especially to feel anything other than frazzled out of my mind. To each their own, not my thing.
This is perhaps one of the worst reviews I could give. I put this DVD in my player, watched the trailer, and popped the disc back out. The preview looked so-so, but being a zombie film my think is to watch it still — because if I only watched the well-made Z-films then I’d only have about a dozen reviews and all of them would be a part of my nearly-top-10-list. The issue that I had with Cemetery Man was that it was subtitled and did not have a language over-dub option, and at the time I didn’t have time to watch a film that required me to read (I usually work on something while I watch a film at home, usually my laptop). I’ve been told that an over-dub version followed the 1994 release a few years later — so I may try to get my hands on that and give this film another go. Still, IMDB indicates that this film had a $4-million budget (which is not just low but it is LOW) and grossed $253,969 at the US box-office ….. so how much of a film am I missing here really?!?
As far as I’m concerned Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz does not deserve the honor of a review or a comment on my webpage — but — I bought a copy, I’ve seen it, and I’m fairly thorough …. and I’ll share my opinion for other film fans of a genere to see something great or avoid something terrible.
Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz = AVOID
So there are a few things that happen in HolloWood that really stink up art, films, creative ideas …. and I mean stink up like the scrapings from the dog park at the end of a July weekend. One of them is excessive creative liberties …. “I paid for the license on this story, and now regardless of whatever that story is I can do what I want — and I do!” Another one is the thought that world federation wrestlers, extreme fighters, or ultimate weight lifters can act …. instead of putting them out to pasture once they’ve body-slammed their brains out or whatever, someone tries putting them into film. Sometimes that works — a great example would be DwayneJohnson — not only did we get lucky there, we got a real gift. Usually what’s done is they put them in high-action/low-story roles, and because there’s a bunch of action it must be a good film. WRONG!
This film takes the setting of Outpost and tries to give the back-story — the origins of the machine and the experiments — and strings along a battle-royal with some Russian Special Forces soldiers who come off more as resistance fighters and ultimately does nothing to establish the subtitle of the ‘rise of the Spetsnaz‘.
The opportunity for a quality, meaningful, story-establishing prequel to Outpost (2008) was entirely missed with Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz. As my understanding goes, there was more money wasted on Rise of the Spetsnaz than there was spent on making Outpost: Black Sun (2012). Black Sun is in my mind a superior film to ROTSpetnaz. Black Sun derivatives from the character of the original 2008 film but stays enough within the universe. Rise of the Spetnaz just took the setting and did whatever it wanted for the sake of making some meatheads an acting career. In Black Sun the world is being threatened by the machine and the un-dead phase-shifting nazi super soldiers, and had the money that was thrown away in making ROTSpetnaz been put to Black Sun it could have delivered this world-threat development better.
I now own the 2008, 2012, and 2013 Outpost films. I’m glad to have seen all three to know all the ground covered with the original idea, but had I known what was done with Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz I wouldn’t have paid ten cents for a copy.
The short writing about this film is this …. at one time I had a longer writing …. it’s relative to that time that I thought I didn’t need to back-up my hard drive.
More or less to say, the additional film that should have been made to compliment the original 2008 Outpost. The story works, you get to revisit the dangerous location found in the original film and yet go further in. The phase-shifting zombie-nazis are now more of a threat — in this case, to the whole world! There are some creative liberties I could have done without. The sad thing is that this film has less money behind it (or at least to my understanding) than the 2013 Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz and did far more to carry the story line. Had only the wasted Rise of the Spetsnaz money been put to this film then Black Sun could have been even better. If you liked the original Outpost, see Outpost: Black Sun — skip seeing Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz.
This film was my first exposure to zombie nazis. I found a copy of the film on DVD at a liquidator store for $3 — figuring that it was going to be a roach, I was just too amused at the combination of zombies & nazis, and found out that it was a fantastic film.
Oh, and if you get really opinionated about the film, you can debate as to whether or not the nazis are zombies, phase-shifting zombies, or humans transformed into ghosts. Regardless, in this humble Highland bagpiper’s z-film opinion, this flick kicks ass.
At first blush this film appears to be about a boy in Northern England who trades his boxing gloves for ballet toe-shoes, and is otherwise absolutely grossly devoid of zombies. However, I am fairly sure the sick grandmother charactre is in the beginning stages of turning into an undead person. I predict that the film “Billy Elliot 2 – The Years Between” will be made; this will reveal the zombie outbreak, teen-Billy’s epic trials of battle & survival, and rebuilding of society where we rejoin Billy at the end of film 1 having freed himself from his zombie-apocalypse PTSD through ballet. Oh yeah … mark my words, Billy Elliot 2 will be made … any day now … I’m sure of it.
A mocumentary* suggesting that the reanimated dead live among us — from wild or low functioning zombies all the way to high functioning zombies who can pass for being human**. It’s amusing, a lot of subtle humor that sometimes you have to be paying attention and think for (God help us if we have to actually think!) — it could very well be a film that was shot right before some sort of mass zombie outbreak and consequent attack. This film, however, I feel would bore the life out of a non-Z-film-fan, but would be a good chuckle to fans of zombie genre.
* Mocumentary – a fictitious documentary
** Which could help to explain a few of the people I’ve met, particularly in the work-place and management.