One Cut of the Dead, 2017.
Directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda.
Starring Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya.
A film crew making a zombie movie in an abandoned World War II facility are attacked by real zombies.
They say you know a genre has peaked when the parodies start appearing. In the case of the zombie genre that happened quite some time ago (1985s Return of the Living Dead since you’re asking) and since then the genre has shambled onwards with a few neat deviations and twists here and there but ultimately most zombie movies that come out to any fanfare are a variant on something George A. Romero has already done or so completely out there that it is impossible to ignore.
Which is where Japanese zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead comes in because this isn’t just a parody – it’s a deconstruction, and not just a deconstruction of zombie movies but of movie making in general. This is because for the first 30 minutes you are watching a film crew making what appears to be a low-budget zombie movie – complete with bad acting and shoddy make-up effects, all done in one long shot – in an abandoned building that (we are told) the Japanese used in WWII to conduct human experiments. Things go awry when the crew are attacked by one of their zombified colleagues, kicking off a gory and brutal battle with the walking corpses that are now popping up everywhere, all the while being filmed by the agitated director who was looking to get some genuine reactions from his actors. Job done, then.
But, as previously stated, this is all in the first 30 minutes and what happens after that is one of the cleverest deconstructions of filmmaking seen in genre cinema with the most satisfactory of payoffs. Thankfully it is done in a far less smug and pleased-with-itself way than Shaun of the Dead – which is still the benchmark that all zombie comedies get measured against – and the humour is wacky and energetic, sweeping you up right from the get-go and barely letting go until that first half-hour is done and you think you know where the film is going as you get to see how the zombie movie was put together in the first place, the movie dropping in pace before letting you glimpse behind the curtain…
To say any more would be too much of a spoiler as One Cut of the Dead is a film that benefits from going in cold and being constantly surprised by what the filmmakers – both the ones in the film and the real ones – have put together, making you come away from it with a bit more of an appreciation of just what goes into making a low-budget splatter movie, and also how just wanting to get the job done properly can bring out the best in people.
By the time you read this One Cut of the Dead will have just finished an extremely limited theatrical run in the UK and if truth be told, a packed cinema with like-minded genre fans is the best place to watch it but if you missed out on a big screen showing then do yourself a favour and pick up the DVD or limited edition Blu-ray and strap yourself in for one of the most original, smartest and entertaining zombie movies to have been released for quite some time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★