Japan’s One Cut Of The Dead might just be the year’s most unexpected movie. Promising a zombie comedy like no other, it absolutely fucking delivers. Shin’ichirô Ueda’s feature-length directorial debut manages to give us yet another totally original spin on the classic ‘zombie’ film in a way you would least expect.
The film opens on the set of a zombie movie. Granted, we’ve seen horror movies recently which take place during the filming of other horror moves (e.g. Found Footage 3D). However, the meaning behind the title quickly becomes evident as one of the several unique concepts at work. A few minutes in, it becomes clear that the film’s perspective is from a single camera that never stops or cuts. The camera operator follows the actors and crew during a shooting break when they’re suddenly attacked by real zombies. Obviously frustrated with their “fake” performances, it seems the director has summoned a real zombie outbreak. The crazed director returns to the set and yells to keep rolling no matter what. Much to our delight, the camera operator obliges.
Thus, the entire opening act plays out in a single 37-minute take. Let me say that again: a single 37-minute take. Various characters run from, fight, and become, zombies as our camera operator tries to keep up. Imagine Hardcore Henry meets 28 Days Later and you get a sense for the experience. Granted, a few moments drag during this sequence, as the camera buys time for various stunts and effects to be set-up off screen. However, these moments are brief and forgivable in furtherance of the single-take concept that, overall, keeps the action flowing. The net result is a fast-paced, pulse pounding thrill ride building up to a thrilling first-act climax.
Of course, the film does not sustain single-cut format for its entire 96-minute runtime, lest it risk becoming little more than a gimmick. Instead, the film subverts expectations once again, shifting dramatically in tone and style for the second act. Frankly, this contrast is the film’s biggest weakness. The story and pacing slow substantially throughout the second act, sucking out a lot of the energy that had built up. Ultimately, this ‘breathing room’ provides a much-needed break before a positively manic third act, but that doesn’t stop the change from being frustrating in the moment.
But the third act is where the comedy kicks into high gear, resulting some of the best slap-stick horror comedy set pieces ever committed to film. I was seriously gasping for air, as I was totally unprepared for the level of humor on display. Without spoiling what makes the final thirty minutes so much goddam fun, I can only say that the intensity and and fun builds to a triumphant conclusion. If it doesn’t get your blood pumping, seriously check your pulse!
Ultimately, while following a continuous narrative, One Cut Of The Dead feels like three completely different movies due to the sharply contrasting styles. However, it opens and closes on such strong notes that it can’t help but leave a positive impression. Ueda’s film earns an easy recommendation for genre fans looking for something light, fun, and bloody.
One Cut Of The Dead made it’s Canadian premiere at the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Fantasia 2018: ‘One Cut Of The Dead’ Makes Zombies Fun Again [Review]
From the opening act action to the closing act humor, One Cut Of The Dead is an absolute blast.