One Cut of the Dead is a brilliant long con of a movie, with a lot of heart and even more guts.
This Japanese horror comedy takes place in an isolated warehouse, where a small crew is filming a low-budget zombie movie. There’s no shortage of tension on the set, and the director is short-tempered and eccentric. Nothing the cast does seems to satisfy him – so when an actual zombie staggers onto the set, he orders his crew to keep filming.
The first third of One Cut of the Dead appears to be just a mediocre zom-com. There are a few good gags (including a production assistant using her rudimentary self-defence training to fend off the stumbling undead), but an ineptness permeates the whole thing. Conversations are stilted and awkward, and the plot moves along without any particular rhythm. Fast-paced zombie sequences are interspersed with unnaturally long pauses and seemingly random chit-chat (“So…do you have any hobbies?”). It’s amusing enough, but not good in any sense of the word.
It’s truly astounding how much commitment this film expects from its audience. I’d be interested to see the data on how many streaming viewers actually switched the movie off before the thirty minute mark.
Anyone who does that will out, because after its unexceptional beginning, the movie completely switches gears in a way that justifies and enriches all that came before.
I won’t spoil what comes next. Take my word for it – watch One Cut of the Dead, and watch it all the way through. It’s something much more than a zombie movie.
Title: One Cut of the Dead
Director: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Screenwriter: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Year: 2017 (Japan); seems to have spread into North America sometime in 2019