Juan of the Dead, or Cuban’s answer to Shaun of the Dead managed nothing but fulfil my expectations of it. Rarely am I put off by budget constraints, but when there is a lack of resources then the makers need to step up in order to keep proceedings from veering into weak territory and in this case it appears the creative limitations matched the production values. In fact, Juan does just about everything rather badly.
The choice to use shoddy CGI for of the few allegedly ‘’creative’’ kills is one of several poor judgements, why they didn’t redact those instances from the script unless they could find the money and skill to carry them out practically and competently shows quite the lack of standard and research into the genre. The staging is so poor throughout, that action scenes are sluggish and technically clumsy. This is not as much an indictment of the choreography or the actors as it is on basic editing. The film also contains the weakest undead performances that wind up unconvincing and dull to sit through. Zombies are supposed to drag limbs but not the entire pacing of a fairly short film.
At a time where The Walking Dead is one of the highest rated shows on TV, George Romero is still kicking around behind the lens (although questionably so) and we’ve consistently been drowning in a swamp of predictable zombie output for the last decade; it’s hard to believe that a film cannot at least get the growls and physicality of a zombie right! If you haven’t garnered from the title this is aiming for humour rather than scare, and it unsurprisingly comes with its own band of quirky misfits- come-slackers scrapping their way through events. And yes there is a bumbling friendship at the centre, but for a comedy it is damn unfunny. If the slapstick and unconventional weaponry hasn’t already been seen a hundred times the potentially interesting ‘New Cuban Revolution’ schtick certainly doesn’t add anything thanks to lack of investment. There isn’t even much story to speak of, Juan is the hero, him and his chubby mate battle zombies whilst trying to profit out of it and Juan tries to reconnect with his daughter.
Juan of the Dead commits the same crimes that an intolerable amount of zombie films does, one I hate in particular; relying on its location to set it apart, this might fly if it wasn’t the 2000’s and if anything cultural or innovative was provided but it just limps over the same old tropes, albeit with some sun and a Charanga soundtrack. Juan fails to embody the one thing that a zombie comedy most needs: charisma, had it been for a touch of that it may have been saved in places, or at least watchable.