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Juan of the Dead


Experience the Cuban gristle crisis.

Rod Lott August 21st, 2012

Don't call them "zombies" — call them "dissidents." That's one of a few well-aimed bits of political satire that populate the Spanish-language romp Juan of the Dead, but worry not: They're used sparingly and none come heavy-handed — a Castro polemic, this isn't.

juanofthedead

As played by Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Juan is a middle-aged, self-"employed" fisherman in Cuba whose layabout life gets some much-needed excitement when zombies dissidents invade their economically ravaged, crime-ridden village.

Ironically, it motivates Juan and his otherwise lazy gang, as they start a dissident-extermination business whose motto is, "We kill your loved ones." Armed with oars, slingshots and ninja stars, they take out those trying to take over their little community, one infected bite at a time.

Other than being a zom-com, it has nothing to do with the UK cult classic whose title it riffs. Well, that and being genuinely funny, because writer/director Alejandro Brugués puts his own spin on the undead without resorting to ripping off another country's work as a quick-buck foreign filmmaker may do. Brugués has jerry-rigged Juan of the Dead with plenty of slapstick-friendly scenarios that find the humor in the horror, and most of them work.

I'm thinking especially of an inventive harpoon gag that occurs early in the onslaught and involves Juan's elderly neighbors — the kind of gross-out but gut-funny humor that Peter Jackson excelled in with the likes of Dead Alive before he got all self-important and running-time-bloated. Similar cult appeal awaits, if only it thinks to look south of the border. —Rod Lott

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Dead Alive Blu-ray review    

 
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