Even amidst a sea of notable product, undead movies are not as easy to make as they appear. Brain eating, zombie killing and blood and guts spewing images my be easily accessible to the newbie filmmaker, but creating a memorable outing that stands up as a whole is where the real difficulty lies. This is where the walking dead themed Cuban import "Juan of the Dead" falls short. It has a creative and at times well-executed group of scenes and ideas, but as a singular piece of unforgettable cinema it fails to make its mark.
Life has become a tad mundane for Juan. As a man who enjoys simple things like fishing and hanging out with his best friend Lazaro, Juan is content but a little bored. But soon things begin to heat up in Havana as zombies and various undead begin to take over the town and it’s up to Juan and his merry band of misfits to get rid of the problem via their new zombie clean up service Juan of the Dead...or die trying.
Juan does provide some colorful additions to the undead genre, problem is there’s a lot of empty zombie-headed dull stuff too. Not that all of Juan’s wares are original, as there are a lot of homage to everything from Romero to "Ghostbusters," but it’s done with a Cuban tongue in cheek that makes it unique. So when Juan plays things for laughs and an over-the-top sensibility the film cooks. (The ending animated comic-book stuff is pure gold!) It’s when Juan begins to take itself too seriously that the credibility begins to crumble. As if wanting to have comedy of "Shaun of the Dead" AND the bleak vision of Romero in one seemingly awkward outing, Director Alejandro Brugues bites off way more then he can chew and makes one uneven undead picture. Plus his cast is more in tone with comedy anyway, including cross dressing ass-kicker Jazz Vila and especially sidekick Jorge Molina who spends the duration of the film in a belly exposing outfit that elicits both awe and amusement. (He pulls off that look well!) Comedy is the way of the Juan.
I just wish Director Brugues had spent more time on tone with Juan. There’s definite potential within that puts the film and its creator in great company, but attention to detail is lacking. Just sticking everything in a movie blender and hitting puree doesn’t guarantee a smooth cinematic snack – sometimes those bigger unneeded bits have to go.
Title: "Juan of the Dead"
Cast: Alexis Dias de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro
Director: Alejandro Brugues
Running Time: 94 Minutes
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