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Film / Juan of the Dead

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AKA Juan de los Muertos, 2011 horror/comedy film about a Zombie Apocalypse, filmed in, of all places, Cuba. The eponymous protagonist is a fortyish slacker who lives in Havana, eking out a living with occasional low-rent fishing expeditions with his friend Lazaro, and attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter. When a zombie contagion starts spreading among the city's populous, he first ignores the problem, then rounds a few of his cohorts and establishes a for-profit zombie-killing service. Until, inevitably, events spiral further out of control, and the gang are forced to find a way to survive or flee the island...

Probably no real surprises plotwise, but the film displays a wacky sense of humor, and offers American viewers a rare look at life in modern Havana.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: The English-speaking former aid-worker. Up until the moment Lazaro accidentally shoots him in the chest with his speargun.
  • Afraid of Blood: El Primo is immensely strong and willing to fight, but instantly keels over at the sight of blood. He ends up successfully fighting blindfolded.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: La China wears female attire, and openly finds men attractive. Juan and others refer to La China in masculine terms ("That dude was getting on my nerves!") despite the feminine nickname note . La China could be a Camp Gay man or a heterosexual transwoman who is misgendered by the others.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Juan notices how close to each other his daughter Camila and slacker California are getting, so he decides to talk to each other separately. California gets a Shovel Talk. As for Camila, he warns her about California having herpes, which is false. California's reaction:
    California: He said I had WHAT!?
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  • Blatant Lies: The news reports keep claiming that the Flesh Eating Zombies are dissidents being paid by the U.S. government and that the military has the whole situation under control so people should go about their daily lives despite random buildings blowing up and the hordes of undead flooding the streets.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Right after Juan decides to stay behind and fight back ("I am a survivor. I'll be fine."), the animated credits (set to a punk cover of Frank Sinatra's "My Way") show the others also staying behind and fighting along with Juan.
  • Boom, Headshot!: This being civilian Cuba, none of the main characters own guns. A zombie does get dispatched by a (blindly lucky) speargun shot to the head.
  • Bury Your Gays: La China gets turned into a zombie, thrown off a building and then Juan re-kills him with his oar while El Primo is ripped apart by a horde of zombies in the shelter.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Camila spends the whole movie referring to Juan by his name. It is not until the ending, when she realizes that he is going to stay behind and fight back, that she calls him "papá".
  • Camp Gay: La China is a flamboyant drag-queen.
  • Comedic Sociopathy
    • While out killing zombies, Lázaro takes the opportunity to brutally kill a (non-zombified) guy who owes him money and shrugs off everyone else's horror at the slaying.
    • While out looting, an old guy in a wheelchair begs for help and Juan sends Lázaro and California to go help him. They come back with carrying their loot in the wheelchair. Lázaro says that the old man died and they left him behind. California says that it wasn't necessarily in that order.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: It turns out Juan served in the Cuban army in Angola, and he becomes a zombie-killing machine using his fishing oar as a weapon.
  • Driven to Suicide: Parodied in a scene where, following a dispiriting conversation with his daughter, Juan stands for a long moment on the edge of a tall building. It turns out he's steeling his nerve to jump down to a balcony below, so he can sneak into a married woman's apartment and have sex with her.
  • Dwindling Party: Subverted. China takes a bite and makes it back to Juan's building, only to die, turn, and need killing. Then Primo, proud of his great strength, breaks open a shelter, which turns out to have already been full of zombies. They drag him in. Then Lazaro reveals he's been bitten but it never broke the skin, so he'll live.
  • Fighting with Chucks: Juan uses nunchucks as a backup weapon while fighting the zombies.
  • Gag Penis: If the comments made by La China while everyone is stripped naked by the soldiers are to believed, Juan is quite large in that department.
  • Harpoon Gun:
    • Lázaro accidentally kills the zombie that he and Juan find at sea, the elderly neighbor and the aid-worker with a spear-gun.
    • The aid-worker has a decidedly more badass version. He is introduced firing a harpoon from a car into a pole then driving around in a circle so the attached cable slices through a horde of surrounding zombies.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: Rather than deal with the zombies, the authorities claim that they are dissidents being paid by the U.S. government and organize a protest in front of the U.S. embassy. A large group of unarmed people gathering in one place during a zombie outbreak goes about as well as you think it would.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Juan uses an oar to fight the zombies.
  • In-Joke: Several jokes about the Cuban political scene will go right over the head of foreign viewers, one example being the phone call Juan gets about killing a cow: beef is so scarce in modern Cuba the penalty for the unauthorized killing of a cow can be greater than that for killing a human.
  • Last Request: After Lázaro shows Juan the bite mark, he says that he loves Juan and asks if can give Juan a blowjob as a last act. Immediately subverted when he reveals that he just joking. And he doesn't die.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: When El Primo dies, Juan gets literally sprayed with blood.
  • Machete Mayhem: Lázaro's weapon.
  • Not So Remote: Done in the film's first scene, when it appears that Juan and Lazaro are in the middle of nowhere on their raft, only for it to be revealed that they are in Havana's harbor barely ten minutes from shore.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Juan and his friends refer to them as "dissidents" or similar political malcontents, following an early government news broadcast labeling them as such. Dealing with their first zombie-kill, the gang first think the man is either a vampire or demonically possessed.
    • Averted with the aid-worker who calls them zombies. However, he is speaking English, so none of the other characters understand him.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Juan realizes La China is going to reanimate in zombie form– while still handcuffed to Juan.
  • Pun-Based Title: Riffing off a certain famous genre title.
  • Room Full of Zombies: The padlocked shelter the gang breaks into.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: It specifically stated that the zombies have to be killed by damaging the brain. The first zombie that Juan and friends try to kill keeps on attacking even though as a "vampire" it is stabbed with a wooden stake multiple times.
  • Running Gag: Lazaro keeps accidentally shooting people (zombified or otherwise) with his speargun.
  • Scenery Porn: Intentionally or otherwise, the film does a good job of showcasing Havana, which is a very unique-looking city.
  • Shout-Out: The aid-worker says he will "kick arse for the lord".
  • Silver Bullet: While trying to figure out how to kill the reanimated neighbor, Lazaro suggests that they try shooting it with a silver bullet. Juan points out that they do not have a gun or any silver.
  • The Slacker: Juan, Lazaro and California all qualify, to varying degrees.
  • Sleep Cute: Juan and his daughter do a variation on this at one point.
  • Tempting Fate: Numerous examples in the dialogue:
    • "Look, Juan! A helicopter! They'll save us!" CRASH
    • "Too bad that building blocks the sunset." KABOOOOM
    • "How could this be any worse!?" The lights go out. (Juan is understandably pissed off at this one.)
  • Threatening Shark: Inverted, in that a zombie threatening Juan and Lazaro while they are on their raft gets snatched away by a passing shark.
  • Time Skip: The film jumps forward by a month after La China is turned into a zombie.
  • Title Drop: Juan sets up a business killing zombies and calls it: "Juan of the Dead, we kill your loved ones".
  • Title of the Dead
  • Too Dumb to Live: Lazaro. He somehow survives until the Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Juan catches up to Lazaro and Sara while they are trying to flee on a raft and while he is talking to Lazaro, Sara disappears into the water. When they notice she is gone and look under the water, they see a vast horde of zombies walking along the seabed.
  • Watching the Sunset: Spoofed
  • "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: Juan and Lazaro keep trying to connect with and impress their children.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Near the end, Juan rescues a small boy and puts him on the boat with the other survivors as they flee to America while Juan stays to fight zombies. The end credits show that the survivors come back to fight with Juan but what happened to the boy is not explained. Did they somehow manage to get him to America and get back in time or is he still on the boat?
  • Zombie Apocalypse: For Cuba at least, what is happening in the rest of the world isn't shown.
  • Zombie Infectee
    • The scene where Juan and his gang get seized by the army officer; despite all the officer's precautions, one of these gets loaded on board the truck, with the inevitable results.
    • La China gets bit while on the army truck and turns while still chained to Juan
    • Averted with Lazaro; he fairly quickly reveals he has been bitten, and it eventually turns out that the bite didn't penetrate his skin thanks to the wetsuit he always wears.