Review: ONE CUT OF THE DEAD Is A Zombie Comedy That Loves Movies As Much As We Do
You may think you know what you’re getting into at the beginning of One Cut of the Dead, now streaming on Shudder, but trust me, you don’t. The film’s surprises come quickly and often. I cringe a bit saying that the film even has surprises, as though I should issue a spoiler alert just for that statement. So, I will tread lightly in this review as this movie should be enjoyed with as little foreknowledge about it as possible.
We open on the set of an extremely low budget zombie movie and the filming doesn’t seem to be going well. The dictatorial director, played with unbridled zest by Takayuki Hamatsu, cannot get the real emotion he wants from his lead actress, played by Yazuki Akiyama, who is then comforted by her co-star portrayed by Kazuaki Nagaya. The Director’s tirade sets the scene for the introduction of Nao (Harumi Shuhama) who seems to be the voice of calm on the set. She is apparently the make-up artist and assistant director as well as a self-defense coach and the fight choreographer. She informs our two leads that the location in which they are shooting was the sight of military experiments designed to raise the dead. And we soon discover that the Director is so intent on reality in his art that he has brought about a true to life zombie apocalypse to get the realism he seeks. Soon we are inundated with all the violence, gore and flesh munching we could hope to get from such fare along with the Director’s demand that the cameraman keep shooting no matter what!
If all this sounds cliché, you’re right. By now, you’re thinking that this is just another silly, and not very original zombie movie with the slimmest of shoe-string budgets made only for the purpose of making an inevitable return on its miniscule investment. And you are, no doubt, questioning my abilities as a reviewer. But I need you to trust me. The bizarre, confusing, sometimes nonsensical first section of this movie is time well-spent; and the return on your investment is on the way.
There is so much more I’d like to say as the film truly comes to life at this point; becoming something fresh, innovative, and absolutely hilarious.
In fact, I fear that the film’s twist may ultimately turn some genre fans away from enjoyment of the movie. There is a real question as to whether or not One Cut of the Dead can truly be classified as a horror movie at all. But I also know that most fans of great horror are fans of great movies. Horror fans reward ingenuity and innovation. Horror fans love to know about how movies are made and the blood, sweat and tears that goes into each moment of their favorite films. And this film captures all of that in its own unique way.
There is a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and a lot of gore to be had in One Cut. As well as the visual style of a sustained, single take approach that is only truly possible in our age of digital film making. It is not the first to use this technique by a long shot, but the way it does is fresh and interesting. When all is said and done, we find the theme of what lengths an artist will go to in order to achieve a vision—literally carrying the weight of that vision on his shoulders. The story is about people: truly well-drawn characters, beautifully written and acted. It is told with intelligence, humor and heart.
One Cut of the Dead places writer/director Shinichiro Ueda as a filmmaker to watch. Though it seems doubtful that much of his future output will be in the horror genre, his unique voice and wry humor will surely make him an indie favorite.
Made in 2017 and just now arriving in the US exclusively on Shudder, One Cut may bring about some backlash. But I believe that even the most uncompromising horror fans will find something to love about this movie. A movie that loves movies. Just like us.