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)
What’s worse than that is that it clearly had a chunk of money behind it — not loads, but more money than many zombie films — which in my mind was money that could have been split to make at least 2 other cleverly-made lower budget better films.
The Core Problem — No Story
My impression of Survival of the Dead is that someone — maybe their name was George — had a stack of admittedly clever zombie gags written down and sitting in a pile. This person wanted to use these in a film, but didn’t otherwise know how to pull it off — which frankly is what they should have done and just left well enough alone. However, they got together with their buddies — possibly there were a few beers in the room, possibly a few too many — and they had a brainstorming session that amounted to… “Okay, we’ll use the military ’cause that always flies in zombie films — oh, and to help it sell, everything Irish is popular right now, so let’s throw that in too!” Having concocted a shoddy story-line they got their funding and started rolling.
My guess is that’s how Survival Of The Dead got its start. But what, no gratuitous possibly-future-famous Z-film breasts to further sell this potboiler?!? I like bad film, but in this case I would prefer that whoever green-lighted this project read my review: don’t waste your company’s money and don’t waste the audience’s time.
The Story — Lacking Though It May Be
Zombies have taken over the world. A ragtag band of soldiers roams the countryside to scavenging to survive. The unit is intrigued when they hear of a safe haven on an island off the coast of North America. Expecting to find a paradise, they instead find the island is torn apart by a wannabe Hatfield–McCoy family feud. One family wants to exterminate the zombies while the other thinks everyone can peacefully coexists with their undead relatives hoping for a cure to return their relatives back to their human state.