Tag Archives: Comedy

Ruby Sparks | review

Twee – excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental.

At its best ‘the twee angle’ (for wont of a better phrase) can present a charmingly naïve view of the world that in turn leads us to look at our surroundings with refreshed, childlike eyes (see Wes Anderson). At its worst twee is simply a denial – a refusal to look at things head on, a frustrating, dishonest and manipulative trait employed for and by ruthlessly egotistical or emotionally weak individuals who’d rather take life as a prescribed dose of cutesy vignettes than face a proper engagement with the world and all of its wonderful difficulties.

Ruby Sparks, for better or worse, has a little of both aspects. It’s like an obviously clever child who’s a bit too good at giving the doe eyes, and for all it’s apparent warmth you can’t help but feel there’s something really very cold, very clinical, happening underneath. It’s an incredibly twee film that sometimes charms, more often manipulates, and never quite escapes the plot bind it fixes itself in. It’s populist schmaltz cleverly disguised as subverted schmaltz, with a plot that could have been a novel route to exploring some interesting themes – such as the role of fantasy in our lives – finally content to roam the colourless wastelands of the middle ground.

Ruby Sparks should be seen as a missed opportunity. The film flirts with the idea of really challenging the audience, but instead sucker punches them in the strangest way – by giving them exactly what they want – and leaves with their wallets. It’s part set on the West coast, but that cackling you can hear isn’t the gulls, and that swishing isn’t the waves – it’s studio accountants crowing with delight as they read the numbers off the ticker tape. It might just be the most cynical film of this year (and this year included We Bought A Zoo!).

Contrary to the aftermath, the experience of watching Ruby Sparks is on the whole a placidly pleasant affair – if a little close to watching the slew of ukulele-backed mobile phone adverts from the last five years rolled into one. Like you’ve dropped a few anti-depressants – sit back and watch what were formerly your brain cells pop like mellow fireworks in the distance.

The currently ubiquitous Paul Dano plays Calvin, a self-absorbed writer in a perma-sunny LA (where else?) whose first novel has rendered him a literary phenomenon at a tender age, but who currently finds himself rather lacking in the ideas department. As publishers’ demands to see some new work increase, Calvin can’t seem to get past his block. He’s lonely, but has no friends apart from his dog and his brother, and certainly no chance of finding a girlfriend, which is what he really wants. One night, he has a dream about his perfect girl. Waking up with the fire of inspiration burning hot in his belly he stays up for days on end tippy-tapping away on his beautiful vintage typewriter. Then things go weird. The girl he’s written about suddenly appears. Those vintage typewriters, man.

The film potters along in what is essentially a romcom vein, probably exactly as you’re imagining, and though there are some genuinely funny moments in amongst the achingly cute set-ups you’re always waiting for some kind of conflict.

And then Ruby Sparks dares to do what a romcom would never do – it gives you a taste of real conflict. This is where this film could have become really interesting, and ultimately, where it truly fails, backing away from the difficult questions it starts asking and giving in to a happy ending which isn’t just stupid but actually insulting – to everyone who’s gone to see the film, but especially to women. Without giving too much away, there’s a puzzling plot dilemma Ruby Sparks doesn’t even really try to address, breezing on past like a politician happily answering a totally unrelated question.

The film’s unremitting support of Calvin and his egocentricity is grating, and there’s a faintly misogynistic subtext in the action which makes me surprised this film was written by a woman. It’s called Ruby Sparks but really it’s about Calvin. Ruby herself (Zoe Kazan) has been written as an ironic comment on the two-dimensionality of female characters in film, literature and the male psyche but is ultimately a plainly two-dimensional character. What kind of a message is that for girls?

Zoe Kazan is very watchable, by far the best actor in this film, which is convenient as she wrote it. Paul Dano, so reliable when playing twitchy borderline psychopaths, looks a little lost having to rein it in. The material doesn’t suit him, and he lends Calvin an utter charmlessness that undermines the film’s desire to see something good happen to him. Antonio Banderas and Anette Benning pop up as Calvin’s mother and stepfather in a sickeningly lovely (more fantastic than Ruby herself) pseudo-bohemian life together – which brings me to my other gripe: if you lump this into the same broad category as Little Miss Sunshine, The Kids Are Alright (or as my mother had it The Children Are Going to Be OK) and The Descendants – decent, respectable, well made Hollywood films that confront ‘problems’ in a realistic even-handed way – you notice that these problems seem to solely be the domain of middle-class white people with large disposable incomes in a sun-drenched Californian (or Hawaiian) paradisiac alter-world.

This sun-drowned existence is, in the wake of so many films with such a similar aesthetic, so unappealing that it unconsciously starts to look like a kind of weird aspirational purgatory where these annoyingly well-rounded-but-still-lost people enact their problems without ever learning anything, imprisoned forever by a particular kind of dreamy living (what we might call the faux pastoral fantasy of the non-materialist middle classes) – their Organic Farmers markets, their Apple products (how it pains me to be at the point of saturation I feel more or less comfortable writing that line) and their non-committal fucking principles oh god shoot me now for any colour other than beige.

The irony about Ruby Sparks is that, whilst the character of Ruby is supposed to be an avenue to a realistic exploration of the falsehood of an unrealistic idealisation, the ‘realistic’ world the film is set in is itself a massively unrealistic idealisation. As the quirk drips out of every frame you can’t help but start to wonder if this has really been written, not by a person, but some kind of advanced marketing machine that’s spent the last three or four years amalgamating the popular life-desires among artistic, sensitive types. Let’s sell some vintage typewriters boys!

Ruby Sparks is out in cinemas now

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World | review

You could be forgiven for thinking that a film about how two people spend their last three weeks before an asteroid collides with Earth would be a sci-fi drama. But despite the high-concept, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is nothing more or less than a delightful romcom. Rammed with wit and warmth, it delivers heartily on the rom (the apocalypse acting as a metaphysical Cilla Black) and com (the apocalypse is a rich source of fatalistic humour) fronts.

This is not a sober Melancholia-style cataclysm, it’s more like ‘Naked Gun doesn’t do apocalypses but if it did….’ All is good-natured chaos, from the end-of-days countdown on the nightly news to the public posters offering the opportunity to fuck a virgin. Plodding round this circus is Dodge (Steve Carell) who’s in no mood to seize the moment as his wife has just literally run off. While his middle-aged friends throw Eyes Wide Shut-for-embarrassing-dad-style parties where they take acid and tear up the rulebook on fidelity, he stoically continues to go into work. The only revelation that takes root as his certain death grows closer is that he should seek out his high-school sweetheart, the lost love of his life.

So far, so downbeat, but then Keira Knightley appears in full Clementine from Eternal Sunshine…, Manic Pixie Dream Girl mode. Her character Penny is a record-loving, impulsive, hypersomniac and the pair end up involved in a buddy-movie road trip as they try to get to the people that matter the most before it’s too late. It’s no surprise that Carell, whose eyes are brown pools of kindness mingled with weariness, holds his own as a downtrodden wit with a big heart (See Little Miss Sunshine and last year’s Crazy Stupid Love for previous form). The revelation is Knightley who, although not quite lost in her character, has an infectious energy that sets the pace. Both she and the film possess the good-natured gait of a puppy that’s never been kicked and they race towards the finishing line with giddy abandon.

While the film is about the blossoming relationship between this oddball duo, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World gives generous time to the supporting cast and their subplots. Whether it’s the emotional truck driver for whom three weeks is still an eternity to wait to bid goodbye to the cruel world or Patton Oswalt’s opportunistic sleaze-ball bowled over with excitement at abounding sexual openness, these colourful characters provide regular blasts of entertainment. A climate of hysteria rises and falls and our leads’ ability to empathise with each other in these extreme circumstances makes us root for them.

Some developments feel unlikely but the logic of ‘this is the apocalypse’ sucks up and owns all bizarre swivels. Warmth pulses from every frame. Penny’s record love manifests in classic after classic. Wardrobe and colour palette are all gentle pastels and solid primaries. Liberally sprinkled are cameos so delightful and unexpected that your face will break out in smiles.

It’s amusing and a little odd that such a tragic concept is given such wholesome treatment (there’s a white picket fence knocking about) but once you see through the disguise of the subject to a solid and heartfelt romcom, all is well. This is a well-written, warm treat of a film about a pair whose unlikeliness is aspirational to anyone who wants to believe that love can grow against all odds.

Contributor Sophie Monks Kaufman can be followed on Twitter @Sopharsogood.

God Bless America | review

Had Falling Down been made by the goofs behind National Lampoon it might have turned out something like this black comedy, which posits itself on the side of intelligence, but is arguably just as inane as the pop-cultural figures it mercilessly assassinates, argues contributor Ed Wall.

“America has become a cruel and vicious place.” 

So speaks Frank (Joel Murray), the protagonist in Bobcat Goldthwait’s gory, silly and occasionally hilarious is-it-or-is-it-not-a-B-movie God Bless America. Frank, a middle-aged divorcee, finds himself at odds with a contemporary America whose vapid culture leaves him cold. Yearning for something more than his anodyne life, he has no outlet. He’s surrounded by morons. His pubescent daughter is a bitch. He’s a passive victim of our modern mediaocracy: unable to stomach the quality of the programming, yet still compulsively watching the television at night. When Frank is forcefully retired from his beige office job and told he has terminal cancer on the same day (ouch), our grey suburban ‘hero’ decides enough is enough and tools up. Soon he finds himself joined by disaffected teenager Roxy (Tara Lynn Barr), an intelligent outcast with an unhealthy taste for bloodshed.

Painted in the broadest strokes, Frank and Roxy’s rampage through a culturally deficient USA is on the one hand far less shocking than it imagines it is, but also more covertly sinister than it appears. Besides spending the duration wondering quite which America it is Frank might be sentimentalising about, there’s an uncomfortable sense that, despite the schlocky feel, the film is actually taking itself reasonably seriously while ultimately upholding the values of the culture it rails against. This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Over the course of two hours we’re ‘treated’ to the slayings of various token hate figures including, but not limited to, a far-right religious group with God Hates Fags signs, some Tea Party members and a fat man who may or may not be excusing paedophilia. These set pieces are executed (excuse the pun) with all the snappy dialogue you’d expect from a veteran of the stand-up scene, and decent acting from the two leads (particularly Barr, who endows Roxy with a needs-to-be-loved emotional vulnerability as the flipside to her downtrodden arrogance).

However, in keeping with the trashy pulp aesthetic, there doesn’t seem to be any point to all the violence. The film, ultimately, is trying to say something without wanting to be seen to be trying to say something. In advocating exactly the same response to a problem that a prevalent strain of American ideology demands, the film had the potential to be highly satirical. However, the nagging suspicion that for all the protagonists’ ‘journeying’ this isn’t really going anywhere is confirmed by a weak final third, replete with all-too predictable twist.

Making a film about the decline of culture that is itself artless, pointless and throwaway is either an unflinchingly brave act of postmodern artistry or a beautifully ironic faux pas, on a level with Alanis Morissette’s infamous, blundering misuse of the word ‘ironic’. It’s child’s play simply to list all the things you’re against in order to create a groundswell of sympathy amongst like-minded others (ask Vice magazine). Too much in God Bless America is rooted in the same divisive rabble-rousing actually employed by right-wing organisations like the Tea Party.

God Bless America, then, is not the wholly satirical deployment of the phrase that it might appear. I found myself wondering, in view of all of the recent unforgivable loss of human life, not least the truly abhorrent acts committed by the Assad regime in Syria, and those by Anders Breivik in Norway: is there not some kind of solution we can come to that doesn’t involve killing everyone?

God Bless America is in cinemas now. It is also available on DVD from July 9.

The Players (Les infidèles) | review

Before Jean Dujardin came to worldwide attention by winning the Oscar for best actor in The Artist, he was already a star in his native country. He came to prominence as one half of ‘Un Gars, une Fille‘, a comedy TV sketch show revolving around a competitive-to-the-point-of-cruel couple. Dujardin has had success with dramatic roles since but The Players sees Dujardin return to this archetype as modern France’s everyman in love (so to speak). UK distributor Momentum is banking on that Oscars success to draw British audiences to what is a very French affair.

The Players is a series of scenarios and sketches riffing on the act of infidelity. Or more precisely, men cheating on their wives and trying not to get caught. Dujardin teams up with the aptly surnamed Gilles Lellouche (they were both in last year’s Little White Lies) as partners in philandering.

The separate scenarios plough through the archetypes of Parisian male adulterers: a pair of hard partying buddies, out until 5am every morning fucking any willing pretty woman and covering each other’s backs in the face of spousal inquisition; the lusty, but stymied businessman pathetically jealous of his colleague’s seemingly effortless ability to sleep with every female employee at the company; the mid-life crisis with a girlfriend’s half his age.

It’s an unfamiliar cinematic structure, a TV format, with a bizarre car-crash of characters.  One might ponder on how successfully this Gallic trope might translate, but the relentless absurdity of it is universally funny. The little minute long sketches in particular are crude and tasteless, but equally ludicrous and farcical: an unfathomable fusing of bodies during sex; S&M and an exposing garage door; a dog and a used condom, to give but a flavour of their components. There’s a particularly funny sketch bringing together many of the characters that appear (Dujardin & Lellouche are joined by other ‘infidèles’ including Guillaume Canet, married to Marion Cotillard) in an Adulterers Anonymous group run by a beautiful therapist.

One scenario sees Lellouche’s character openly discussing his infidelity at the dinner table whilst his wife potters in the background, out of earshot. On the way home, the married dinner guest-couple (Dujardin and Alexandra Lamy, the other half in ‘Un Gars, Une Fille’, and the woman Dujardin married after divorcing his first wife with whom he has two children), besides exclaiming their friend’s impertinent flagrance, inevitably end up discussing their own fidelity. Not a date movie, then.

Or perhaps it is. It doesn’t bother with the aftermath of infidelity. There’s the men for whom extra-marital sex has become the ‘normal status’; the man who wants to cheat but can’t (not for want of trying) and sees this as fidelity; and the sad man who can’t hack the complexities of his 19 year old girlfriend’s social life. Women are passing sexual objects or frustrated bystanders. It’s all a bit laissez-faire with a comic-moral line that men are stupid and ridiculous and adultery is their natural state. It’s innate.

The finale sees our pair of partying buddies from the first sketch heading to Las Vagas to give it ‘everything’ and the whole thing descends into bacchanalian lunacy of epic proportions. For heterosexual Parisian relationships at least, c’est la vie.

The Players (Les infidèles) is in cinemas now, courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Exclusive PPH Interview | Beats and Sniper of People Just Do Nothing

PPH caught up recently with Sniper and Beats, kingpins of Kurupt FM – West London’s second most popular pirate radio station – and stars of People Just Do Nothing, a show which started life as a YouTube web series, but made its big-time debut earlier this week on BBC iPlayer. Down at Kurupt HQ, they told me how they do…

*     *     *     *     *

For the uninitiated, what is People Just Do Nothing all about?

Sniper: It’s basically a guide to how to successfully run a pirate radio station. By following me around and observing the way that I can deal with any given situation.

Beats: The BBC have cut out most of the technical side in terms of how to set up the rigs and that so now it is more looking at our lives and some of the stuff outside of the station as well.

Sniper: Yeah now it’s got bits with my missus and my little girl, and they filmed a lot of stuff with [manager] Chabuds, who’s another quite well known character around these ends.

Beats: That’s all that equal opportunities though innit. BBC need to have a couple of them in there.

MC Sniper

How did the project get started?

Beats: Funny story actually…

Sniper: Don’t you tell it, you always tell it wrong.

Beats: Yeah go on, you tell them.

Sniper: Basically me and Beats were doing sets out of my window, me MCing and him DJing and we used to get loads of people gathered outside on the playing fields.

Beats: Usually they’d be playing football aswell…

Sniper: But you could tell they were there for the music. You can play football anywhere. Anyway one day Steves, who was mates with my brother Phobia, turns up at mine off his nut with a massive aerial and saying that we could start a radio station.

Beats: He’d done acid at a squat rave and had a vision.

Sniper: Anyway, long story short, we ended up getting a transmitter off Chabuds and putting the aerial up on the top of the tower blocks. It was actually really easy to set up.

Beats: We got Chabuds to do most of it didn’t we?

Sniper: Yeah but with us telling him how to do it though.

Beats: Once it got going that was it. Never looked back.

Sniper: Never needed to. Don’t need to look back when you’re moving forwards.

Beats: We started to get a bit of recognition around the estate, built up a decent following. Now we get between two and twelve texts per show.

Sniper: And we’ve got people like you lot banging our door down for interviews. Everyone watching us on TV and that.

Beats: Via the internet.

Sniper: Still TV though. BBC Three.

Who are your main influences?

Sniper: I’d probably say political figures mainly. Strong leaders. Freedom fighters. Prisoners of war.

Beats: Mine’s probably DJ EZ.

PJDN began as a grass roots project with total editorial freedom. What’s it been like to work with the BBC?

Beats: They’re alright, yeah. They give you free lunches every day and breakfast as well sometimes. We had our mates coming down and we were just handing food out to all the kids off the estate.

Sniper: They didn’t say anything. The thing that’s weird about the BBC is they already sort of know what they want to film before they start filming so it’s like they are trying to tell you how to act…

Beats: We had to pull them up a few times didn’t we?

Sniper: I kicked off a couple of times. Beats didn’t really.

Beats: Yeah, I would have though.

Sniper: But yeah when we watched some stuff back it just looked a bit weird. They cut all the bits where I was kicking off which is fair enough cos they’re trying to avoid complaints or whatever but they also took out a load of other stuff…

Beats: They took out one thing where I gave quite an interesting description of various different types of skunk and the way they can influence the brain.

Sniper: People should know about stuff like that. That’s useful information.

DJ Beats

Beats: I’ve got mates who could have used that information a couple of years back. One geezer went nuts and thought street lights were following him. He had to move to the countryside. Lives in Cheshire or somewhere mad like that.

Sniper: Mostly it’s psychological. Stay positive. We’re a positive influence for people. Inspirational stories for the young generation.

Beats: Always keep doing what you want to do.

Sniper: Long as it’s not something proper stupid.

Beats: Yeah, keep it believable. I find the best way is to aim to do something that you are more or less able to do already. Then make that happen.

Sniper: Yeah, stick to what you know basically. No-one likes a failure.

If it is a success – and we really hope it is – where do you see it going next?

Sniper: Apparently if this gets enough views then they’ll film more. Maybe do a whole series about us. That’s what we want, basically.

Beats: We might even get paid for some of it I reckon.

Sniper: Probably build the empire, get our own club nights.

Beats: We’re trying to get our own fragrance at the moment

Sniper: I Am Kurupt FM.

Beats: That’s what it’s called. Yeah we emailed Debenhams but haven’t heard back. We’ve got loads of ideas though. Clothing lines, clubnights…

Sniper: It’s a shame this didn’t happen a bit sooner. Would have been good to be part of the Olympics opening ceremony. Did we hear anything back about that?

Beats: Nah.

Sniper: But whatever happens, we’ll keep building.

Beats: Like builders.

Sniper: Literally.

And in a puff of smoke, Beats and Sniper were gone. The first episode of People Just Do Nothing is on BBC iPlayer now. Here’s part 1 of the original web series.

American Reunion

Nine years after their last outing American Wedding, and a full, frankly terrifying 13 after the first film in the series American Pie, Jim (Jason Biggs) and the crew return for a ‘just the same but brand new’ romp which looks at how the guys are coping with the many vagaries of regular-guy adulthood.

We pick up with Jim, now father to a young child, and ensconced in a sexless marriage with erstwhile band camp honey Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). The masturbatory excesses inspired by their barren domestic predicament are demonstrated in an opening scene of brutally tasteless slapstick which, as one might expect, pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film. If you find the prospect of an infant child with his dad’s wanking sock draped over his face funny, you’ll be OK.

Jim sees an opportunity to unwind with the forthcoming high school reunion, and it’s not long before we’re re-introduced to the crew of old; Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is bearded, successful and with a beautiful lady; eccentric Paul (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is spilling over with vague, improbable tales of international adventure; and hunky Chris (Chris Klein), the sensitive choirboy jock is now a popular-but-cheesy sportscaster. Oh, and of course, there’s manic manchild Stifler (Seann William Scott), now an office temp presided over by a fey, domineering boss. As anybody with any sense surely would, the guys do their utmost to avoid the Stifmeister, with limited success.

What follows is a largely predictable compendium of gross-out humour, a college-rock saturated soundtrack, and various shallow-arced journeys toward self-knowledge, punctuated by one or two would-be arch, postmodern nods to generational disparity. As ever, the best thing here is Scott’s wild-eyed turn as Stifler. He’s effectively the film’s wrecking ball; whatever’s happening, however unpleasant or mawkish, all he has to do is appear onscreen to provoke a laugh. Whether it’s mercilessly bashing a double-entendre into a single one, or shitting into a beer cooler, he’s the film’s comic heart. Further enjoyment is provided by the redoubtable Eugene Levy as Jim’s dad, one or two predictable but amusing cameos, and a surprisingly decent minor turn from Tara Reid as Kevin’s ex, Vicky.

However, while no-one will be surprised by frequent swerves toward the grotesque and amoral, genuine alarm is caused by the film’s treatment of women. In the first film(s), the girls had significant screen time, and even some half-decent characterization. There’s no such parity here, sadly. It comprehensively flunks the the Bechdel Test, (a handy barometer which names the following three criteria for a film for which to pass: it has to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man). While it stops just short of the misogynistic viciousness of the likes of The Hangover films, much here leaves a bad taste in the mouth, not least the weirdly conservative agenda that makes women the source of the majority of the men’s problems rather than their own ineptitude, yet punishes them for expressing themselves sexually (Your inner/outer feminist will explode with rage at the treatment meted out to the character of Kara, Jim’s ex-babysitee). The less said about the ugly duckling-turned-stereotyped “spicy Latina” Trisha (Dania Ramirez) who falls hook, line and sinker for Paul’s swashbuckling colonial-lite tales, the better. It’s only really the spirited Michelle that saves the day in this respect.

Ultimately American Reunion, while almost wholly unnecessary as an endeavour, is just about what you’d expect. There’s a few laughs and a few vaguely sweet moments along the way, and it will certainly represent a worthwhile nostalgia trip for viewers of a certain age and constitution. Really, the film itself is a bit like how one might imagine the experience of hanging out with Stifler. It’s initially relatively entertaining, a little bit lovable, frequently disgusting, and when it’s over you won’t be in any hurry to repeat it.

American Reunion is in cinemas now. A version of this article originally appeared on the website The 405.

Juan of the Dead

Alejandro Brugues’ Juan Of The Dead is a fairly amusing horror/comedy from Cuba which ultimately runs out of steam, but not before taking an intriguingly satirical glance at the country’s political climate.

Alexis Dias de Villegas – who resembles a near-perfect genetic splice between John Turturro and The Wire’s Bubbles – is the eponymous Juan, a charismatically down-at-heel odd-jobs man prone to puttering around Havana with his corpulent, sex-obsessed sidekick Lazaro (Jorge Molina) in tow. Juan’s life, other than conducting a risky affair with a married woman, is pretty bare; he’s a likeable rogue with a history of failed relationships, and an estranged daughter who lives with her mother.

Before long, creeping zombies begin to attack the town’s population, though they are misidentified by our heroes as dissidents paid for by the US government. Following the careworn generic template, a rag-tag band of last-ditch, have-a-go-heroes (led by Juan) assemble and attempt to save the day with inevitably bloody, queasily humorous consequences. The twist arrives when Juan hits upon the idea of making some quick cash from his group’s exploits.

The film’s greatest strength lies in its creation of a convincingly desolate landscape upon which to unfold the action. Like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, it takes a recognizably vibrant area and scorches it with a digital sheen, resulting in a creepy, slick barrenness. Despite the film’s obviously skimpy budget, there’s an impressively inventive approach to gore manufacturing, with early set pieces proving particularly effective.

The acting is of a varying standard. As Juan, de Villegas exudes a shambolic charm, though he is guilty of some pretty wild overacting on occasion (those staring eyes!) The outstanding performance probably comes from Andros Perrugorria as Vladi, Lazaro’s cocksure yet sensitive son. Beneath all the manic action, another compelling feature of the film is its unusual satirical bent, which is clearly signposted enough for the uninitiated to cotton onto, but not quite overwhelmingly sledgehammer in approach.

Sadly though, Juan of the Dead never quite gets its pacing right, and starts to drag at a disconcertingly early stage. Scenes feel repetitive, and there’s also a distinct lack of chemistry between Juan and his main foil, the rather unpleasant Lazaro. Unlike Shaun Of The Dead (a film which, unsurprisingly, Juan quotes from explicitly), we’re never able to feel too deeply for these characters. Neither is the film particularly horrific or suspenseful, placing greater stock instead in comedy. Sadly, much of the humour simply falls flat, recoursing too often to the dodgy waters of ‘zany’, when a lighter, subtler touch is surely called for.

Worst of all, there’s a pronounced strain of homophobia throughout which doesn’t appear to be in any way ironic, and finally tips into a retributive viciousness that’s immensely difficult to swallow. Whereas Shaun…‘s Frost and Pegg embraced the undeniable homoeroticism inherent in the buddy genre, Juan… figuratively coaxes it out, then coshes it in an unpalatable, cowardly cinematic gay-bashing.

Ultimately, Juan Of The Dead emerges as a worthwhile, if not especially memorable, addition to the zombie horror genre. It’s not the finished product by any stretch – it’s far too uneven for that – but Brugues has certainly marked himself out as a directorial name to watch.