Written by Shin’ichirô Ueda
Directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda
The tired argument that the zombie genre is overdone and has no impact anymore has been disproven time after time. Films like Train to Busan, The Girl With All the Gifts, Cargo, and more within the past few years alone have shown the breadth and emotion that the subgenre can carry along with proof that something different doesn’t necessarily mean something bad. With Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead, that torch burns ever brighter as horror fans and filmmakers alike will delight in what is one of the most entertaining films of the year. It’s also certainly one of my favorite offerings.
The film opens with an uninterrupted 37-minute take where we follow a film crew shooting a zombie movie in an abandoned and eerie factory when suddenly – and who could’ve guessed it? – real zombies begin attacking everyone. The film’s director, Higurashi (Hamatsu) sees this as the perfect opportunity to get the best performances possible out of his subpar stars Chinatsu (Akiyama) and Ko (Nagaya), even going so far as to force danger upon them while refusing to let go of his handheld camera. As bodies start piling up and insanity begins taking over, the entire production unravels amidst chaos, bloodshed, and severed limbs.
Oddly paced with awkward pauses and full of unexplained and incomprehensible events, this take feels at points like a slog. While there are moments that certainly play to horror audiences, the crowd I was sitting in was clearly confused by what was going on, as was I. Were we supposed to appreciate the amateur writing and forced performances? Were we supposed to laugh at them?
That being said, everything I just described is only the first act and it’s beyond worth sticking through. I’m going to elect not to reveal the premise of the 2nd and 3rd acts as that would take away from so much enjoyment that is to follow.
I will say that the middle of the film has some minor pacing missteps – although the setups here are crucial to what follows – but the 3rd act is quite possibly one of the most charming and hilarious experiences I’ve ever had in theaters. Bolstered by phenomenal performances, the film’s meager $27,000 budget is never felt. Quite the opposite, in fact.
A love letter to zombie movies and also to the art of crafting them, One Cut of the Dead is the kind of movie that feels like a triumph. Audiences will leave this movie with a rekindled love – and appreciation – for cinema in general.
One Cut of the Dead is a strong contender for the most enjoyable and best film of the year. Made by filmmakers who are clearly horror fans, this is a must-see experience.