One Cut of the Dead Review
Whatever you think One Cut of the Dead is, it isn’t. Or maybe it’s better to say that it is what you think it is, but it’s also so much more than that. You may have heard that it is the funniest zombie comedy since Shaun of the Dead, and it is with giggles and belly laughs all the way through (although I maintain that both Cockneys vs. Zombies and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are both darn fun films). It is one of the most surprising and satisfying movie-watching experiences I’ve had for some time, but it’s also one of those movies that you get even more out of the less you know about it going in. Therefore, whilst I will discuss the film in broad terms, I will avoid as many of the little details as possible.
One Cut of the Dead, or Kamera o Tomeru na! “Don’t Stop the Camera”, has done nothing but grow since its release in Japan 2017. Its initial run was for six days in a small 84 seat cinema in Tokyo. After it gained acclaim, and even a standing ovation, at film festivals it was expanded to more and more cinemas and even had a nice little promotional movie of giving discounts to audience members in zombie costume and make-up. It has now made over 3,000 million yen, 1,000 times its original budget, and played in festivals all over the world, including London’s FrightFest where they had to add extra screenings due to demand.
The premise is simple, and surprisingly one we haven’t really seen before. A film crew making a zombie movie in an abandoned building are then attacked by zombies, and their director sees this as the perfect opportunity for some method acting. This is the titular one cut; the first third of the movie is presented as one long and unbroken take capturing the zombie chaos. It’s a great little achievement in timing and choreography, yet something feels a little off in a few moments; awkward deliveries, long pauses, and you might find yourself wondering “what’s so great about this sub-par zombie movie?”.
But then everything is turned on its head, and by the time the third act occurs everything comes together in such a hilarious and clever way that you want to start the movie all over again to see if you can spot certain little details. It’s so deliberately constructed by Shinichiro Ueda, who wrote, directed, and edited the film, and it works beautifully. Comedy is a very subjective genre, and when you factor in language and cultural barriers as well it can be extra difficult, but that’s never a problem here, anyone can enjoy it.
The cast is made up of unknowns and all are fantastic in their roles, but the real breakout performance is Takayuki Hamatsu as Director Higurashi. He is a man frustrated, getting by on putting out average work that he has no real feeling for and when put in a tight situation finds that, for once, he might want to make something good despite all the odds against him. Also great is Harumi Syuhama as a character who takes things a little too seriously, and whose self defence techniques will have you yelling “POM!” to confuse your friends and family.
There is so much to enjoy in One Cut of the Dead. It is a great fun comedy of everything going horribly wrong, a quirky character study, a love letter to the highs and lows of the creative process, and then there’s even more that I won’t risk talking about. The greatness of a movie like this can only be understood when you experience it yourself, and you should absolutely do that as soon as possible, or January 4th when the film is released in UK cinemas.