One Cut of the Dead (dir. Shin’ichiro Ueda) / Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama
Synopsis: One Cut of the Dead is a horror/comedy film from Japan debuted in 2017, and theatrically released in Japan in the summer of 2018. It recently just got it’s first at-home release in other countries of the world as an exclusive on the horror streaming app Shudder.
The narrative follows a movie crew seeking to create a low budget one-shot take of a zombie hack film, and things begin to go wrong among the shooting of the film while the crew is attacked by actual zombies. For your own sake, if you haven’t seen this movie and do not want any spoilers: GO WATCH IT FIRST! You’ve had your warning.
After the continuous shot of about thirty minutes portraying the film itself that the crew are trying to make, the film cuts to what had happened before the movie was filmed. The crew gets together for their readings, and the film builds itself by showing struggle and constant work to get things in the right order for this challenge the director and his crew are about to take on.
When the crew goes to film the movie (yes, the one we saw right at the beginning of the film) – we have a completely different perspective on it. We see that the main reasoning for the film’s decisions are because of mistakes among the cast and crew, and unforeseen actions that had to take place to get the film rolling.
Now, there’s not much I can complain about when it comes to this film. Aside from it’s rather uneventful ending, the movie is fantastic in many different elements.
The camerawork of the continuous long shot offers many storytelling aspects, such as the blood from the zombies on the camera, literally. A lot of these shots are focused to a minimal environment, not often throwing any new characters at you or any new plot holes only to forget about later. The following shots add character to the continuous shot, making itself feel a lot more natural. Most of the shots used in the first thirty minutes are only medium and close up shots, which are used intentionally. A lot of wide shots are used in the post-film part of the movie, showing exactly why certain decisions were made in the film and how they turned out in the end project. Some foreshadowing was done for this exact aspect, like the more challenging shots the crew was going to take on usually had a resource lost and had to be done in a different way.
There are some genuinely tense parts during this movie, especially for the first thirty minutes. One scene that really sticks out to me is near the end of the scene where there’s sudden pauses and interruptions on the rooftop leading up to the final killing of the crew member(s). This film never takes itself too seriously, and knows just when and when not to use comedic aspects. It’d be safe to say that this film has a schlock aspect to it, while still being able to stay self-aware through it’s entirety.
For the first 30 minutes of the film, not much music is used at all. Which is brilliant, because when it is used, it’s only in moments that have any sort of emotional appeal to them. Instead of using those big scary noises that you hear in modern films for jump scares, the same noises are used for the tense, skin-crawling moments.
The Bottom Line
This is a fascinating concept for a movie. Probably one of the most fun, genuine feeling flicks I have seen all year. To show us all the material that the movie is based around beforehand, and then deal with plot directly after that’s done only to show the audience the exact same thing we saw but with a slight twist. I would recommend this flick to anyone who loves horror, or film-making as an art form.