One Cut of the Dead (2018) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

One Cut of the Dead (2018) Review

Horrorific content by angie on July 19th, 2022 | Movie Review | Comedy, Survival, Gore, Zombie, Meta, Zombie Comedy, Splatter, J-Horror

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It's about a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies.

One Cut of the Dead was directed by Shinichiro Ueda and stars Takayuki HamatsuMaoHarumi ShuhamaKazuaki NagayaManabu HosoiHiroshi Ichihara, and Shuntarô Yamazaki.

One Cut of the Dead (2018) Review

In 2017, the Japanese zombie-comedy film "One Cut of the Dead" was a big hit among audiences in its native country and at international film festivals. What makes the movie's success all the more impressive is that its fans have managed to keep its twists a secret. For the last three years, horror movie fans have been tight-lipped about this cult classic's nesting doll narrative. They've also helped to build up the movie's reputation to the point where people were ecstatic when a US theatrical release was announced, even those who already owned the DVD box set.

Having seen the movie from start to finish, I recommend watching "One Cut of the Dead" without knowing anything about it beforehand. I'm not usually bothered by spoilers, but I can see how the appeal of the movie comes from the almost unbreakable feeling of mystery surrounding it.

"One Cut of the Dead" is a zombie comedy that starts slow, with a flat visual style. It's about a low-budget film crew filming a zombie movie who are suddenly faced with an actual zombie attack. For the first 37 minutes, a group of indistinguishable characters meanders and occasionally escape from various zombies in an abandoned factory.

This section of the movie is still not good upon rewatch. However, the writer/director Shinichiro Ueda does spark interest in the film by filming the opening segment in one continuous, uninterrupted take. In addition, you may enjoy watching characters flee from danger while deranged director Hirugashi occasionally appears, as if out of thin air, to shout "action" or ramble about "true filmmaking." Two years ago, I abandoned "One Cut of the Dead" because it felt like watching somebody else play a generic first-person video game. It was unenjoyable and not worth my time.

Luckily, "One Cut of the Dead" gets better from here. After the 37-minute mark, we see Hirugashi being asked to direct the very same short movie that we just watched. This adds an extra layer of meta-comedy to the already hilarious film. This change of pace is welcome, even if it doesn't make the movie move much faster. We follow Hirugashi and some of his colleagues as they try to determine the best method of creating a zombie movie, given the time, cast, and available resources. Guerilla filmmaking is tough, and it's nice to see a movie about a film that shows how many different opinions, budgetary restrictions, and creative mistakes can happen behind the scenes in a small genre movie that, on its surface, doesn't seem to stand out. Until this point, Ueda's film is what you'd get if you combined elements of "Day for Night" and "Ed Wood." It's not as good as either of those movies, but it's still likable.

"One Cut of the Dead" reinforces its self-referential humor and finally starts to move as we rewatch the film's first third again, this time through Hirugashi's eyes. Now we see all the last-minute work happening while they shot their short, from coordinating actors to readying equipment. This act of "One Cut of the Dead" is enjoyable, partly because Ueda and his co-creators don't conflate artistic value with filmmaking effort. Just because they worked incredibly hard on this adequate comedy doesn't mean you must love it. Instead, "One Cut of the Dead" succeeds primarily due to its focus on patterns and variations. What begins as a forced attempt at self-awareness eventually becomes truly lively.

Worth Watching? 

I'm not sure if the ending of "One Cut of the Dead" is worth the slow build-up and long-winded setup. The jokes and characters are mostly one-dimensional, and it seems Ueda didn't put much effort into the movie. What this movie requires from its audience is an investment in its characters-- something that not everyone may be willing to do. As a result, your enjoyment of the film may vary depending on how long it takes you to connect with them. Nevertheless, I enjoyed "One Cut of the Dead." It kept me engaged throughout, even if it didn't always stick to the landing. Ueda did a good job overall, despite some hiccups along the way.

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