In 2004, many of us squealed with delight as we watched Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD – the next generation of the genre that Sam Raimi championed with his EVIL DEAD series. The visceral combination of body horror and the humor necessary for stomaching it has long been a match made in heaven (or maybe the other place). It’s a genre that sticks and one that has a significant following. But how can a director add a new layer, making these films more than just callbacks and homages to their predecessors? By using politics, of course.
Politics and horror films, especially those of the zombie variant, go hand in hand as most of them show both the monstrous nature of the big baddies (zombie hordes! killer clowns! whatever the alien from THE THING is!) and the humans who attempt to survive them. When the status quo goes to shit, leave it to your government and outdated organizational structures to set things straight… Okay, maybe not. This is why Alejandro Brugués’ JUAN OF THE DEAD caught my attention.
The premise is simple: a slacker, deadbeat dad teams up with his even dumber friend to fight off a horde of zombies in a series of over-the-top, bloody events. The kicker is that the zombie apocalypse is happening in Havana, Cuba. At first, the Cuban government claims the zombies are dismissed as American dissidents attempting to sow discord (NO! The zombies are a “metaphor” for the zombie-like lives that many Cubans have adopted). Slacker dad Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) responds in true revolutionary style by starting a business: “Juan of the Dead, we kill your beloved ones.”
Although the film may not be the best horror comedy since SLITHER (worth a watch, though also fairly stupid), JUAN OF THE DEAD promises to be a heartfelt, honest film that provides a window into life on the other side of the embargo when it isn’t showing us scenes where zombies get their jaws torn off.
JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) DIRECTED BY ALEJANDRO BRUGUÉS @COOLIDGE
3/10 – 7PM
Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446