M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Last month, counted down my favorite horror films from my first year of reviewing. Now it’s on to Year Two which began officially on October 1, 2011 and went through September 30, 2012. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2011 and September 30, 2012 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on March 16, 2012 and available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!

JUAN DE LOS MUERTOS (2011)

aka JUAN OF THE DEAD
Directed by Alejandro Brugués
Written by Alejandro Brugués
Starring Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro, Andros Perugorría, Jazz Vilá, Eliecer Ramírez, Antonio Dechent
Find out more about this film here!

Lauded much by critics across the cosmos as the coolest of cool, I finally saw JUAN OF THE DEAD. This happens to me a lot and I don’t mean to be divisive or contrary. I’m not one of those people who dislikes the thing that is popular, but I am one of those people who is often mislead by hype. Had I stumbled upon JUAN OF THE DEAD without hearing how awesome it was, I’m sure I would have fallen head over heels for it. But hearing folks hype it up to universal levels of coolness is the surefire route to disappointment for me.

I think part of the reason why my experience watching JUAN OF THE DEAD was less than jaw dropping was the overall theme of homophobia throughout the entire movie. As much as the film is filled with amazingly comedic takes on age old zombie lore and cinematic tradition, there is an uncomfortable amount of off-color humor about homosexuals. Ranging from Juan’s friend calling those he dislikes derogatory terms for homosexuals to Juan’s own distaste towards his openly gay partners in crime, this film is rife with homophobia from beginning to end. On the one hand, this is a Cuban film, made in Cuba, by Cubans, and while I want to respect that Cuba may not be as culturally accepting toward homosexuals as Northern Americans are, it doesn’t make me any more comfortable sitting through a film which occasionally treats gays almost as bad as the zombies that are raging through the streets. There’s nothing overtly violent towards homosexuals in this film, but the disdain put upon them by using terminology in a derogatory fashion as well as the way the homosexual characters are looked at by the title character are enough to make any open minded individual uncomfortable.

That said, I can recognize JUAN OF THE DEAD as a delightfully black horror comedy, despite its cultural insensitivity. There are plenty of wonderful sight gags and goofy situations the opportunistic Juan and his ragtag band of misfits get themselves into during the first days of the walking dead. From trying to convince a senile old lady that her weirdly acting old husband is actually a zombie to making a final run for the border in a convertible through the zombie masses, there are tons of stunning visuals that definitely deserve to be applauded. There’s a sequence that occurs underwater which makes reference to ZOMBIE 2 involving a bunch of zombies and a shark. Juan starts a service dispatching the newly departed making the best of a bad situation and collecting a little pocket change to boot. In fact, unlike most zombie films, this is one of the most feel-good zombie films I’ve ever seen.

The cast is pretty good here as well with Alexis Díaz de Villegas (Juan) offering up charisma galore, despite the fact that it is highly unbelievable the lanky John Turturro-esque looking actor could be the gigolo the script casts him to be. That said, he does have a commanding presence and by the end of the film, I was rooting for him to make it through the zombie apocalypse.

As with SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which was rooted in the British culture it takes place in, so does JUAN OF THE DEAD serve as a travelogue of sorts for the sights, sounds, and the rich culture celebrating great pride in calling itself Cuban. Like SHAUN as well, JUAN takes a very serious turn towards the end and ends on a cool, but somber note that I won’t ruin here. But because the comedy has been occurring around the characters and not making fun of them, this turn of tone doesn’t feel alarming or out of place. It serves as a meaningful note to finish this story we have grown to care about and does so in a heartfelt manner.

I look forward to seeing what writer/director Alejandro Brugués has in store next. He certainly has an eye for an epic scope and I definitely can see the director becoming highly lauded by geek and normal movie goer alike. While some of the depictions of Cuban culture pushed my American cultural sensitivity to the limit while watching JUAN OF THE DEAD, I can understand why the geeks are going ga-ga over this one. At times, I found myself in awe of the coolness of it too with strong characters, fun performances, and fantastic scenes of action and gore. I can’t do a back flip over this one, but it definitely is one of the best zombie films to shamble out of the crypt in quite a while.




THE 2011-2012 COUNTDOWN!


#20 – JUAN OF THE DEAD
#21 – BLOOD JUNKIE
#22 – THE SNOWTON MURDERS
#23 – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
#24 – [REC]3 GENESIS
#25 – JULIA’S EYES
#26 – MOTHER’S DAY
#27 – EL PARAMO (THE SQUAD)
#28 – INBRED
#29 – THE SLEEPER
#30 – FATHER’S DAY
#31 – THE MOTH DIARIES


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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