I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of Cuba’s first zombie film when it premiered last fall at TIFF, and it easily became an instant favourite. Tonight, Juan of the Dead is screening again in Toronto, this time as part of Toronto After Dark’s Summer Screening Series at the Bloor Cinema. Tim and I already had tickets to view the works of another master this evening, so we sadly are not going to make it to this one. If, however, you are a fan of fun zombie flicks, and EVER get a chance to see this, definitely go and check it out! You will not be disappointed!
Juan of the Dead introduces us to a whole new breed of zombie fighter – one who would turn a zombie apocalypse into a lucrative venture for himself and his misfit band of friends. When “dissidents” belived to have been hired by the US Army start turning up all over his beloved island nation, Juan goes from loafing about – jobless – in a wife-beater and shorts, to a fierce and (usually) effective zombie killing machine! Without the need for things like traditional weapons or survival gear, Juan assembles his ragtag team, and together they come up with some of the most creative undead kill scenes ever put to screen!
Juan may not contribute much to society – or even to his family, necessarily – but he loves his country and his life, and it’s his loyalty and determination to rid Cuba of the undead and make it safe for the living once again that truly drives this film. Our heroes are human – flawed, yet valiant – and they, like the film itself, do not ever take themselves too seriously. In the end, it’s about the citizens who stand up for Cuba; the face of the everyman – friendship, family – the simple values that are held fast to, even in the face of impossible odds.
Juan of the Dead is a true love letter to zombie movies, and to Cuba itself. With beautiful and historic Havana as its backdrop, and excellent creative use of subtitles, this film is guaranteed to leave fans old and new clambouring for more.