Thursday, October 17, 2013

Juan de los Muertos

Written and directed by Alejandro Brugues, Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead) is the story about a 40-year old slacker who finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in Cuba as he gathers his friends and his daughter to fight against zombies in Cuba while making money off of it. The film is an ode to the George Romero zombie films while setting in a country that is often isolated from the world. Starring Alexis Diaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, and Andrea Duro. Juan de los Muertos is a very exciting and funny zombie film from Alejandro Brugues.

The film is a simple story about a man in his 40s named Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) who doesn’t really do anything except help out elderly neighbors and attend community meetings while sleeping around with a married woman as he also has an estranged daughter named Camila (Andrea Duro) whom he doesn’t see very often. Then on a day in Havana where he hangs out with his friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) and Lazaro’s son Vladi California (Andros Perugorria), they suddenly encounter zombies as Juan gathers whatever family and friends he has left to battle the zombies while making some money out of it. It’s a film that takes the zombie genre and set it in Havana, Cuba where it’s a place where no one is sure what is going on as the government claims that the forces they’re dealing with are dissidents, anarchists, or anything involving the U.S.

Alejandro Brugues’ screenplay definitely plays to a lot of the conventions that is expected with the genre while he blends the film with lots of humor. Especially as someone like Juan has no clue about zombies thinking they’re just nothing more than dissidents and anarchists that have gone wrong. Despite the fact that Juan and Lazaro are slackers who have no qualms wanting to profit from killing zombies. It’s just that their business venture doesn’t always work out as they unfortunately kill some good people but it’s often by accident. Yet, Juan wants to make his daughter proud as she had always been disappointed by him as she would also prove to be helpful in the zombie-killing business by killing some in her own way. Still, the dwindling numbers of humans and the growing number of zombies does add some dramatic weight that is to happen where Juan realizes what he and his small band must do to survive.

Brugues’ direction is pretty straightforward in terms of compositions as Brugues was able to shoot the film in Havana. Especially as the idea of a zombie apocalypse in Havana seems pretty funny where Brugues uses some TV news footage where the press and government try to deny the idea of the zombies rampaging all over Cuba. Brugues knows how to fuse suspense and humor where the people of Havana have no idea how to deal with this apocalypse except for Juan by accident as he gets some friends to try and kill whatever they can in order to survive. Throughout the film, Brugues puts in a lot of gags which often involves Lazaro accidentally killing people with his harpoon gun. Yet, it just adds to the energy of the film that is always exciting as the mixture of humor, horror, suspense, and drama somehow manages to work. Overall, Brugues creates a very entertaining and terrifying zombie film that gives audience enough gore and laughs for them to enjoy.

Cinematographer Carles Gusi does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as he uses its low-key digital look to create a sense of terror in some of the scenes set at night as well as a few tints for many of the film‘s daytime scenes. Editor Mercedes Cantero does fantastic work with the editing to create some montages as well as some stylish cuts to play with some of the film‘s action. Art director Derubin Jacome does nice work with some of the set pieces such as the apartment roof where Juan and his gang live as well as the look of some of the places they encounter. Costume designer Esther Vaquero does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the character La China (Jazz Vila) who wears flamboyant clothing.

Special effects makeup designer Cristian Perez Jauregui does brilliant work with the look of the zombies as well as playing to their decayed look with some detached limbs and such. Visual effects supervisors Manuel Rico and Juan Ventura do some wonderful work with some of the visual effects in not just the death of the zombies but also to play with some of the exteriors of Havana. Sound editor Jose A. Manovel does superb work with the sound in creating some sound effects for the zombie deaths as well as the atmosphere in some of the location settings. The film’s music by Sergio Valdes is amazing for its very playful Cuban-based music filled with some jazz as well as traditional Cuban dance music as the soundtrack also includes Sid Vicious’ cover of My Way.

The film’s marvelous cast includes some notable small performances from Susana Pous as a married neighbor Juan sleeps with, Blanca Rosa Blanco as a hooker Lazaro likes, Manuel Herrera as a TV announcer always displaying some untruthful news, Jazz Vila as the very flamboyant La China, Eliecer Ramirez as the big strongman El Primo who faints whenever he sees blood, and Antonio Dechent as a mysterious zombie killer simply known as Father Jones. Andros Perugorria is excellent as Lazaro’s son California who is proven to be a formidable opponent for the zombies as he helps gather food for the survivors. Andrea Duro is fantastic as Juan’s daughter Camila who returns to Cuba from Spain as she deals with the zombie apocalypse as she helps her estranged father as well as fall for California.

Jorge Molina is great as Juan’s dim-witted and horny friend Lazaro who is definitely a badass though he does things that aren’t so great yet manages to bring some nice humor to the film. Finally, there’s Alexis Diaz de Villegas as Juan as this man who hasn’t done much in life as he tries to deal with the zombie apocalypse in his own unique way where he brings a lot of intensity and humor to his character that makes him a very unique protagonist.

Juan de los Muertos is a spectacular film from Alejandro Brugues. The film is definitely a zombie film that has all the things needed in the genre while infusing it with bits of social and political commentary set in a world that is often isolated from everyone. Especially as it has Cubans fighting off zombies with whatever they got and have fun doing it as well as make a nice profit. In the end, Juan de los Muertos is a remarkable film from Alejandro Brugues.

© thevoid99 2013

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