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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 Lázaro, 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: Preacher Jones, the English-speaking former aid-worker. Up until the moment Lázaro 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 by following La China's instructions.
  • The Alleged Car: Juan and the rest find an abandoned Lada (a Russian export) and he manages to get it started just as they get surrounded by zombies. The car advances a few meters and the motor stalls, making Juan release a Cluster F-Bomb on Russians for exporting Ladas to Cuba in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Batter Up!: What California uses to fight the zombies. He mostly just bashes their heads in, but he also hits a baseball hard enough that it sinks into a zombie's forehead.
  • 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 when he learns what Juan told Camila:
    California: He said I had WHAT!?
  • 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. Never mind that random buildings are blowing up and hordes of undead are 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.
  • The Butcher: Lázaro tries to play this trope straight when he boasts to Primo that they used to call him "the Normandy butcher." Ultimately subverted when he confesses it was because of his job slicing steaks at the Normandy hotel.
  • 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. He even flirts with the soldiers who detain them.
  • 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 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.
  • Dual Wielding: Lázaro wields a rusty machete in each hand. Camila opts for a small axe and a claw hammer.
  • Dwindling Party:
    • China is bitten at some point and makes it back to Juan's building, only to die, turn, and need killing.
    • Then Primo, proud of his great strength, breaks open the doors to a shelter, unaware it was full of zombies. They drag him in.
      Lázaro: Juan, enough of your genius plans! We have gone from an orchestra to a band!
    • Finally, Lázaro reveals he's been bitten. Subverted in that the bite never broke the skin, so he'll live.
  • Elevator Failure: The elevator in Juan's building tends to get stuck between floors. Juan is seen helping his elderly neighbor climb up to her floor. Later, Juan and his pals are getting rid of a body when it suddenly reanimates. The elevator gets unstuck, slicing the body in half. They still need to kill the half still in the elevator.
  • Epunymous Title: Riffing off a certain famous genre title.
  • 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, elderly neighbor Yiya, and Preacher Jones, the aid-worker with a spear-gun.
    • The aid-worker, Preacher Jones, 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.
  • Hidden Depths: In the scene where Preacher Jones is talking to the group in English, it comes out that California knows Italian.
  • High-Pressure Blood: When El Primo is dragged in by the zombies in the shelter and killed, Juan gets literally sprayed with blood.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: China convinced Juan to let him join in the business of killing zombies by using his slingshot with enough accuracy and force to down a zombie.
  • 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.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Juan and Lázaro need to get zombies to come out of hiding. Simple screaming does not do it. Lázaro tries name-calling, shouting "Iconoclasts!" and "Bastards!" Zombies don't appear until he yells "ANARCHO-DISSIDENTS!"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Juan, pretty much. He exploits the situation for profit and he has a tendency toward Comedic Sociopathy. This is the same guy who helps his elderly neighbor negotiate steps and a faulty elevator, and later saves a little boy from his zombified dad.
  • 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 was just joking. And he doesn't die.
  • Lethally Stupid: Lázaro manages to accidentally murder Yiya, and Preacher Jones, just before he reveals his plan.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Juan is never seen wearing anything other than his cut-off jeans and sleeveless undershirt. The shirts are always immaculate, considering how often he ends up covered in blood.
  • MacGyvering: The gang decides their only option is escaping to Florida. They turn a convertible into a flotation device by attaching empty oil drums.
  • Machete Mayhem: Lázaro's weapon of choice.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Soldiers detain Juan and the rest and handcuff them all, along with other survivors, one of whom is infected. All of a sudden, the infectee bites another survivor. Screaming ensues.
  • Not So Remote: Done in the film's first scene, when it appears that Juan and Lázaro 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.
  • Profane Last Words: Badass Preacher Preacher Joe is just about to explain his grand plan to deal with the zombie invasion when he is interrupted by a harpoon to the chest. He manages a "Fuck" before collapsing.
  • Room Full of Zombies: The padlocked shelter the gang breaks into.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: It is 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: Lázaro 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: Preacher Jones announces he will "kick arse for the lord".
  • Silver Bullet: While trying to figure out how to kill the reanimated neighbor, Lázaro 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, Lázaro and California all qualify, to varying degrees. For example, Juan is not interested in moving to Miami like many others want to do, because over there he would have to work hard to make a living. In Cuba, he can get by while doing very little.
  • Sleep Cute: California and Camila do a variation on this at one point.
  • Taking the Kids: Camila's backstory: her mother got so tired of Juan doing things like dressing up little Camila in rags and having her beg money from tourists that she moved to Spain with her daughter.
  • 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.)
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: When Preacher Jones shows up, he instructs the gang to get in his truck. Just as Juan climbs in, an undead China materializes, grabbing Juan by the ankle. Juan does not just kick that person away; he bludgeons them multiple times with his oar.
  • Threatening Shark: Inverted, in that a zombie threatening Juan and Lázaro 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 answers the phone with a cheerful: "Juan of the Dead, we kill your beloved ones".
  • Title of the Dead
  • Waif-Fu: Juan returns from his arrest, worried sick about Camila. To his surprise, she is dispatching "dissidents" quite easily, even vaulting upon a zombie's shoulders and sinking a claw hammer into his skull, then walking away without looking back at the carnage.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Juan catches up to Lázaro and Sara while they are trying to flee on a raft. While he is talking to Lázaro, 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. Juan and Lázaro lament that a building is blocking their view. The building collapses immediately after. They wordlessly put on sunglasses and continue watching.
  • "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: Juan and Lázaro keep trying to connect with and impress their children. Juan has a harder time, as Camila grew up away from him and sees him as irresponsible. She is the reason why Juan agrees to waive the fee for a community workshop on killing zombies.
  • 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 Lázaro; 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.