Thursday, June 28, 2012

Toronto After Dark 2012 Summer Screenings: My Thoughts on Juan of the Dead

Last night was the first of two special "Summer Screening" nights for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.  This series provides a sample of the Toronto After Dark experience in anticipation for the full festival, which runs this year from October 18-26.

The first film screened was a special presentation of a film that I regretted not seeing when it played last September at the Toronto International Film Festival - Juan of the Dead.  The film is a Cuban zombie comedy, which, like Shaun of the Dead, has a name that is play on George R. Romero's most popular zombie film Dawn of the Dead.

Speaking of Shaun of the Dead, I couldn't help but notice some vague plot similarities between that film and Juan of the Dead.  Here a quick list of the similarities I noticed:

  • Both are named after the title character.
  • The title character of both has a somewhat overweight best friend
  • Both films feature a comedic use of violence (especially in the initial zombie encounter)
  • Both films feature the title character checking on a loved one (Shaun's ex-girlfriend, Juan's daughter)
  • Most humorously, both feature a highly choreographed zombie fight.
I should also note that Juan of the Dead also takes a number of elements from Ghostbusters, namely in how Juan and his friends form a zombie extermination company, who hunt and kill zombies for hire.

Of course Juan of the Dead has its own merits as well.  The film uses the zombie apocalypse as a metaphor of Cuba's relationship with the United States.  Right from the start, it is assumed that the zombies are "dissidents" sent by the U.S. government.  I don't even think the word "zombie" is even used until late in the film.

By initially not knowing that they are zombies, Juan and his friends have to piece together the facts they know about them in order to find out the best way to kill them.  This results in a rundown of the various cliches of zombie films, including the character's confusion about why some zombies move slow and others move fast.

Now, you can't have a zombie film without loads of violence and gore and Juan of the Dead has some of the most awesome and creative zombie kills I have ever seen.  I don't want to spoil these moments, but I will say that my favourite zombie kill involves a harpoon (and not in the way that you might think).

Overall, I thought that Juan of the Dead was an awesome zombie comedy.  It's a shame that it hasn't received a proper distribution deal yet, since I am sure it could be a big hit if does get a release.  If you are able to find Juan of the Dead, I highly recommend checking it out.

 10 | LOVED IT