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Juan de los Muertos (2011)
Slacker comedy with sly social commentary
"Juan of the Dead" is a comedy from Cuba which portrays the government- controlled media of the socialist country as claiming within the film's storyline that recent violent attacks are actually "dissidents" and "imperialists" who were paid by the United States. The government is generally portrayed as being inefficient, while capitalism is portrayed as the answer to a zombie invasion, instead of the government. The main character starts up a business, Juan de los Muertos, offering to kill the zombies for profit.
Alejandro Brugués, the writer and director of "Juan of the Dead", appropriates George A. Romero's style of combining political satire with gory special effects, and creates a film that is openly anti-socialist and pro-capitalist. Camilla, Juan's daughter, tells her father, "you never change, Juan, just like this country." Where this film and "Shaun of the Dead" have similarities are in both films using slackers as their protagonists. The culture that created both films makes them drastically different in terms of subject matter. "Juan of the Dead", in my opinion, stands as the funniest zombie comedy thus far, and eclipses Shaun of the Dead.
As a comedy, "Juan" seems to be funnier than "Shaun", with the humor being drawn mostly from absurdity. As in all comedy, the humor is not in expense of heroism, which is a virtue, but in the expense of ineptitude and stupidity. The media, at the government's assistance, not only denying that there is something more than discontent towards the Cuban government's rule causing the violent attacks, but blaming their own invented dissident on the United States paying Cubans to stir up trouble. Juan questions the news media's description of the zombies, as one of the people that he witnesses "go crazy" is a long-time friend, not a dissident. Further suspicion comes first hand when Juan visits a neighbor with a dying, wheelchair-bound husband who not only comes back to life, but walks out of his wheelchair and attempts to attack. Juan and his friends initially think that the man is a vampire, but only destroying the brain, as in Romero's zombie films, takes out the living corpse.
The zombie film aspect of "Juan of the Dead" is sincere. The zombies in Juan are not socialists or capitalists, even in metaphoric context. They're zombies. The film's portrayal of the Cuban government may claim the zombies to be dissidents, but they have no actual political motive. They are mindless monsters who want to consume the flesh of the living. The political aspect of the film rests solely in the disconnection between a government that lies to its people via the news media that it controls, and the coercive aspect of government contrasted with the voluntary arrangement between individuals, and how the worst of government may occur during a crisis, such as in this film's portrayal of zombie violence, the dead returning to life and attacking the living, and the living turning into zombies after being bitten by the living dead. It's as much a classic zombie horror film as the original "Dawn of the Dead", and it's one of the funniest political comedies you're likely to see.