Zombie films are a dime a dozen these days and very few stand out. It is almost as if there is a template and everyone follows what was previously successful. As a film viewer, that can become tedious and after a while all zombies look the same. In my quest to find some fresh zombie meat- I went looking overseas to see what the other guys are doing and I found some hidden gems to share with you.
Juan of the dead is Cuba’s version of their interpretation of Shaun of the dead. Juan is a no mark deadbeat who just coasts through life- that is until the dead rise. Upon first glance this may look like a blatant Shaun of the dead rip off but I think it is trying to tap into Simon Peg’s fan base rather than flat-out stealing the plot.
There are some similarities -granted, but Juan has a Cuban style all of its own. Despite the language barrier, as it is a Spanish language film with an American translation subtitles, the humour is still conveyed. There is a heavy Anti-American sentiment running thorough out the film which is why it has probably been delegated to the bargain bin.
The Zombies are refered to dissidents and the Americans are immediately blamed for unleashing some sort of biological agent or plotting civil unrest. Rather than being offensive, it is rather quite amusing. Cuba being the country that it is and a very closed society, their news is rather limited and has a homeland skew to it. Resulting in everyone not knowing what is truly going on and all offering their own wacky explanations for what happening.
Whether it is trying to make a social commentary about itself or about other foreign powers, it is mostly left to the eyes of the beholder. What it delivers is a gore fest with slap stick zombie kills and Juan as an unwitting hero du jour. The physical comedy and body count defies and language barrier and makes Juan of the Dead a very enjoyable film.
Mutants is a french language zombie film, also subtitled. The premise is slightly more of an infection film but the hows and whys really don’t matter so much when the apocalypse is nigh and other “things” want to eat you.
It starts off rather cookie-cutter, the end of the world has begun, people are infected and coming back from the dead. A French couple try to make it to a military base and the husband is accidentally shot by a female solider they picked up along the way. The pregnant wife tries to save him from turning and you pretty much get the idea.
Reading the back of the DVD box, if you can find one in English, you would think it is the same old thing but what this film offers is good old-fashioned creepy suspense. It hooks you in and before long you are yelling at the television “Don’t go in there” or “Don’t turn your back”.
I think the French do bleak and chilling very well. It is not often a Zombie film keeps you compelled to the edge of your seat. Along with the atmospherics and the sense of desolation, when there is action- there is full-on action. There isn’t buckets full o’gore, as much of that is reserved for the first part of the film but there is a lot of zombie ass kicking for a petite pregnant french chick.
I may not recommend buying Mutants on DVD because everyone’s tastes are different but if you can find it as a rental or on Netflix, it is well worth a watch.
What can I say about this next film The Horde, other than I saved the best for last. Again a French subtitled film but this film is Zombie bliss. It has everything you would want and expect in a zombie film.
This is what the official Amazon description has to say:
“Gore-filled French zombie horror. When detective Mathias Rivoallan is murdered by a gang led by the Nigerian Markudi (Eriq Ebouaney), four of Rivoallan’s colleagues (Aurelien Recoing, Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins and Antoine Oppenheim) hatch a plan to avenge their friend’s death by executing Markudi and his henchmen in an abandoned building. However, it soon turns out that the gangsters are the least of their worries when the building comes under siege from an army of flesh-hungry zombies, and the two sides must quickly bury their differences and band together to fight the bloodthirsty undead.