“Don’t stop shooting!”, One Cut of the Dead is the story of a low-budget filmmaker amidst a hectic zombie production when a real zombie wreaks havoc on the cast and crew. With a perfectionist, psychotic director filming a once in a lifetime scenario and a steadily growing body count, two amateur actors must fight to survive.
One Cut of the Dead (2018)
“Kamera o tomeru na!”
DIRECTOR & WRITER: SHIN’ICHIRO UEDA
STARS: TAKAYUKI HAMATSU, YUZUKI AKIYAMA
Plot Synopsis – Spoiler Free!
One Cut of the Dead opens on a meta-narrative as we observe the making of a zombie film until a harsh “Cut!” is heard and the mask is pulled away. The dishevelled actors reluctantly return to their positions before being halted by the director who violently insists on more passion. The production manager calls for a break and we, as a viewer, begin seeing the people behind the low-budget makeup. It is in this brief respite that the crew discover that an incantation has conjured a real-life zombie invasion!
More than just another zombie film
Okay, so the premise leaves much to be desired from a creative standpoint. However, I promise there is much more to this film that I simply cannot go into without tarnishing the remarkably rewarding experience of the first viewing. Even if you’re a viewer succumb to the “zombie fatigue” that has set in since the influx of mediocre movies since the early 2000s, I assure you that One Cut, truly, has a unique spin on the sub-genre and works as the perfect response to revitalise your interest in the concept.
Through many twists and turns, this film has stunned film festival goers on a global scale while maintaining its nationalism as a Japanese graduate workshop film. With a shoestring budget of around ¥2.5 million ($27,000) One Cut of the Dead has captured audience interest grossing $30 million domestically despite being shown on only 2 screens! Since its initial domestic release in November 2017, distributors at Arrow Films have released a DVD and limited-edition Blu-ray available to the UK.
Shot in one 37-minute long single take
One of the aspects attracting attention is the 37-minute long single take that the film opens on. That’s right, there are no cuts, no editing trickery and no camera switching for the film’s opening 37-minutes (and you can ask the director himself because he edited the whole thing). Although that in itself is a cinematic achievement, the film is actually pretty great as well! One Cut has achieved critical success with a current 100% on Rotten Tomatoes by critics and a further 97% by audiences.
Masterful camerawork masking a tiny budget
First and foremost, the camerawork displayed in One Cut is phenomenally self-aware while masking the minuscule budget well. Cinematographer Takeshi Sone has been nominated for 11 awards with only one targeted at his work behind the camera for 2018’s Ghost Mask: Scar. I am excited to find that Sone has since been nominated for the 42nd Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography and, while up against strong contenders, I personally hope he finds a win on March 1st. One Cut is nominated for a total of eight awards at the ceremony including Best Picture and Screenplay.
On top of that, the campy use of special and practical effects goes beyond what you expect from a comedy poking fun at low-budget reliance on fake blood. Since the days of Hammer House in the 50’s, horror flicks have created some imaginative methods to spurt blood and guts from off-camera. Despite that, One Cut really shows how far you can go with what little you can conjure up without making the faint of heart turned off in the slightest.
An incredibly fresh (and hilarious) script
Of course, this review is free of spoilers, but the film’s heart is in its incredibly fresh script. Although the basic outline of the concept is not entirely original, the way in which the crew play with it make all the difference when making a comedy. As a harsh critic when it comes to comedy, especially in foreign language films due to the language barrier sometimes present in subtitled humour, One Cut had me laughing out loud and out loud hard!
Even technical restraints are used to strike a chord and the admittedly amateurish secondary cast are (sometime accidentally) hysterical. Takayuki Hamatsu did a great job as the psychotic director and was my personal highlight of the whole film. However, this did inadvertently leave the cast surrounding him seem even more lacklustre in performance which was a minor downside to his passionate energy.
Passionate is the exact word I would use to describe this film. It really shows that a lot of time and effort went into the process of making this indie film work. Whether it be a credit to their efficiency or a barrier in their production, the whole film was shot in 8 days (2 of which were dedicated to the first 37 minutes).
As an enthusiastic fan of Asian cinema, this film captured how a clever script can spark the surrounding production to craft a masterful piece of cinema. Director and Writer: Shinichiro Ueda is a graduate of the Tokyo film school: Enbu Seminar and has stormed the gates of film festivals with many of its viewers completely oblivious as to who he is. They’ll remember his name now as the man who rivalled the likes of Shaun of the Dead for putting zombie-comedies back on the map.
One Cut of the Dead is a filmmaking marvel that plays with the common tropes of horror that fans of the genre will find gut-bustingly funny. I’m giving this film an 8/10 and I look forward to what Ueda has in store for 2019.
You can currently find One Cut of the Dead on DVD at the Arrow Films Distributors’ website by clicking here. For a limited run, currently out of stock in the previous link, there are special edition Blu-ray copies on Amazon by clicking here. Additionally, Amazon Prime users can purchase the film on Prime Video for a digital copy.