Juan of the Dead

Juan of the Dead is both something familiar, and something quite innovative. A zombie movie from Cuba – yes, you heard me right – it tells the tale of a couple of slackers who see a very non-Communist business opportunity in the collapse of society following a zombie apocalypse.

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It’s brilliance is not in the tension or horror or even the comedy of a what’s a fairly recognisable survival story, nor is it the witty script or the almost unlikeably amoral characters. Rather it’s the accompanying social commentary that’s so consistently entertaining; the government broadcasts that insist on calling the zombies “US-backed dissenters”, the public transport that’s still operating, the rum that lubricates social interactions. These people have survived Castro’s Cuba, so there’s very little left for life to throw at them.

Havana plays a pivotal role too – it is glorious, run down, languid and delightful, even as the cheap CGI trashes it. Many of the best scenes are on a roof top, looking out over the Caribbean cityscape, but the city’s characters, its cars, its food, its music are all utilised to infuse the film with a kind of delightful authenticity. Oh, and if you really want to see how Cuba contributes to the advancement of the zombie genre, just wait til you get to the zombie tango…..