The walking dead are coming to Havana! For the first time ever, Cuba is producing a zombie film named Juan De Los Muertos (Juan of the Dead). The film is directed by Alejandro Brugues, one of Cuba’s up-and-coming directors. The production is a joint venture with Spanish company 5ta Avenida and some investors from Mexico and Venezuela.
The plot centers around 40-year-old slacker Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas), who realizes that Havana is being taken over by zombies. When the Cuban government refuses to help, claiming that it is a U.S.-backed plot to help dissidents overthrow the revolution, Juan decides to go into business killing zombies.
The film looks a lot like the recent British classic Shaun of the Dead. Like, a lot a lot. Skinny loser and fat friend going around killing zombies? Yeah, we’ve seen that before. Though the movie is billed as a satire, we’re hoping it’ll lampoon Cuban society and not take the Scary Movie 1- Million approach. The production value looks really high, especially for Cuba. Most of the time Cuban films look like they were shot on ancient film cameras with discount Chinese film stock. This looks like an actual modern movie. This is due in no small part to its 2.7 million dollar budget, which is probably more than the Cuban government can afford to spend on the entire film industry.
We dig that the film is a commentary on the Cuban practice known as “resolver “(making it work). Life in Cuba is pretty tough. Since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., Cubans have had to fend for themselves. “Resolver” is figuring out a way to make some money on the side or barter to make a living. Some work on cars or sell items from relatives in the U.S. to supplement their low paying government jobs. In fact, it’s not uncommon to go to a resort and have your waiter be an engineer or doctor. It is completely believable that if the zombocalype were to hit the island, some entrepreneur would charge for his/her undead elimination services.
The film certainly looks funny but,again, we hope that the opportunity to do a large scale production and satirize aspects of life in modern Cuba isn’t wasted on a simple spoof of the zombie genre. Alexis Diaz de Villegas looks hilarious with his crazy hair and floppy arms, and his co-star Jorge Molina is the classic fat disgusting slob. It’s a classic trope that has worked for ages (Laurel and Hardy, anyone?). Zombie movies are also a safe bet for an investment of this size. Flicks about the living dead tend to make back their money with international distribution because it already has a built-in audience. We’re hoping it doesn’t royally suck. That is, of course, if we even get a chance to see it. The embargo makes seeing Cuban films difficult for us. Maybe a clandestine trip to La Habana is in order?