Tuesday, 24 July 2012



Like the zombies themselves, zombie movies cannot be stopped: they'll always be there and in greater numbers. Also like the zombies themselves, most zombie movies are hollow, grunting cadavers with nothing going on outside of the blood and moaning. But occasionally there'll be one which displays some signs of intelligence or individuality - a Bub, for example - that doesn't follow the shuffling horde of a thousand other Something Of The Deads and is actually worth closer attention. Part of this may be to do with locale: there may not be much difference between a zombie movie made in Herne Hill and one made in Tooting Bec, but in recent years we've had the undead from Malaysia (Zombies From Banana Village), Burkina Faso (The Dead) and now.... Cuba.

In recent years there's also been a trend to making zombie comedies: Wasting Away, Deadheads, Fido, Shaun Of The Dead, Dance Of The Dead. Personally I prefer my zombie movies to be apocalyptic nihilism rather than amiable knockabout, but even so I really enjoyed Havana-based romzomcom Juan Of The Dead. Juan himself is a good-hearted loser who sets himself up as a zombie exterminator when a rise of the undead hits the city: while the TV news maintains that everything is fine and it's all to do with American-backed dissidents, Juan and a motley group of friends and relations will kill your loved ones for 30 pesos at a time.

It's genuinely funny in places, with sight gags, digs at Latino machismo, a bit of political satire (some of the references I had to look up on Wikipedia afterwards) and genuinely unexpected moments such as the one where Juan and a freshly zombified crossdresser are handcuffed together (for reasons too complicated to go into) and the battle between them turns into a dance routine. There's plenty of gore, including probably the greatest number of decapitations in a single scene ever, but it's inoffensive and comedic enough to get the film a 15 certificate, which it would get for language anyway.

By giving Juan Of The Dead four stars I'm not suggesting that it's a better film than, say, The Dark Knight Rises - it emphatically isn't - but as zombie comedies go it ranks higher than the ultimately disappointing Batman conclusion does on the scale of megabudget studio franchise films. Juan Of The Dead is well worth seeing: generally pretty good and a pleasant surprise.


You're Havana laugh:

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