One Cut of the Dead
13th October 2018 (Mayhem Film Festival)
4th January 2019 (limited)
Things go badly for 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.
Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama
I got to see One Cut of the Dead back in October during Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival knowing nothing other than it features a 40-minute single take, which is the best way to experience it. So I’ve been hesitant to review it simply because the less said the better. But it’s a film that deserves exposure almost more than anything else in 2018, so be prepared for me to divulge absolutely nothing about its plot whilst trying to convince you to seek it out somehow. If you’re near London then you have no excuse as it’s been playing at Leicester Squares Prince Charles Cinema daily for the past month. So get yourself down there before it disappears for good!
All that you should know about One Cut‘s bonkers story is in its synopsis: “Things go badly for 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”… Sounds rather generic for a low budget zombie flick, and when the film begins it seems to be heading in that unremarkable direction. But perhaps more than I’ve ever seen in my life, One Cut of the Dead is a film that rewards your patience. The opening 37-minute shot is playful, nutty fun as the crew of the fictional zombie film realise things are getting much more real. Bad actors are suddenly giving the performances of their life and Director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) refuses to stop filming. There’s a running gag where he shouts “Action” at inappropriate times that results in hilarity. What seems like the meat and potatoes of the film is actually just a large serving of setup for something much tastier.
The opening shot is only a third of what the film has to offer. Once it ended I assumed the film was over due to its spectacular conclusion. But One Cut of the Dead turns into a different beast entirely, and then switches once more later on, making it feel like 3 separate films stitched into together. Except it works. Not only that, it’s a stroke of judgemental genius. Oddities and head-scratching moments from earlier suddenly make sense in the films final third with a smattering of joyous “oh’s” and “Ah’s”. The attention to detail and continuity is incredibly impressive as the comedy becomes extremely meta. Even though the film remains light-hearted, this section actually packs a surprising amount of emotional punch too as characters come together to pull off something truly special. It transcends the screen and embodies that indie-filmmaking spirit that’s impossible not to fall in love with when done correctly.
One Cut of the Dead is one of those micro-budgeted films that come around once in a blue moon and completely knock you off your feet. Originality is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but you truly haven’t seen anything quite like this yet. It’s a hilariously creative zombie comedy and a semi-documentary about indie filmmaking all at once. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the most fun I had watching a film in 2018.
To find out where you can watch One Cut of the Dead visit the link here.
Exceedingly smart and funny
Epic 37 minute take
Best surprise of 2018