Juan of the Dead, review ★★☆☆☆

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This is a Cuban zombie movie. It’s the first of its kind, apparently, and judging on the quality of this piece of work I won’t be devastated if it were the last. Of course, filmmakers more talented than Alejandro Brugués may come along and make Cuban zombie movies that are masterpieces, and if they do I will happily watch them and praise them. But this effort isn’t worth your time or money.

It’s very similar to many other horror comedies that mix slapstick humour with the undead. The obvious template is Shaun of the Dead, although Juan of the Dead goes further down the route of socio-political satire. Single father Juan, his daughter and their friends decide that the best way to make money from a zombie takeover is to offer survivors their services in killing their loved ones when they become infected.

It’s an interesting premise, and the political humour works occasionally (especially when the government start insisting everything is fine whilst in the midst of what is clearly an apocalypse helmed by the undead). The lasting effect, however, is too brief to mitigate the tedious gore-splashing and poor special effects sequences.

There is also a rather horrid streak of homophobia running through the film (an odd ingredient for a zombie movie). Many jokes, both verbal and visual, are designed to make gay people seem repulsive. This may pass for humour in Cuba, but I doubt such bigotry will sit well with most British moviegoers.

There are some moments when the slapstick comedy, despite being repetitive, actually strikes gold and gives way to a genuinely funny set-piece. A highpoint involves an elderly neighbour trying to rampage his way around the flat while his equally aged friend phones for help and gets caught up in pleasantries and gossip.

Sadly, this is not a venture Havana can be proud of, although it does show fleeting moments of promise. Those who are generous enough to look past the nasty and offensive nature of the humour may gain some enjoyment from the broad and crude comedy on offer. I predict most will be checking their watches and wondering when they can get home, stroll over to their DVD collection, and remind themselves what it is like to experience a quality horror comedy.

Juan of the Dead (2011), directed Alejandro Brugués, is distributed in the UK by Metrodome, Certificate 15. 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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