One Cut of the Dead (2017)


This may be one of the hardest movies to review simply because getting in depth ruins the entire experience.  The one thing I can say is the general conceit behind the first third of the movie - a zombie film done in one continuous shot - is ambitious, and it's pulled off without creative editing.  It is what it is, with a film crew making a low-budget zombie flick in an abandoned warehouse that may have been the site of Japanese army experiments during World War II. 

Just the fact that something this complicated was pulled off by what was essentially a beginning film class is impressive enough.  Shin'icherô Ueda and his crew, consisting of a number of people who paid money to be in the film as part of an educational experience, pulled the whole thing off - including the remaining movie following the opening portion - for $25000.00.  It wasn't meant to be seen by anyone except friends and maybe at a few small festivals, but its reputation in Japan quickly grew and, after arriving in other countries, the same thing happened.  This small student project had made around 30 million dollars by 2020. 

An obsessed director (Takayuki Hamatsu) is producing a zombie film in an abandoned water filtration plant.  Frustrated by the lack of realism from his lead actress Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama), he releases real zombies upon his crew, having had some idea that stories about attempts to raise the dead at the site were true.  Chinatsu, make-up artist Nao (Harumi Shuhama) and lead actor Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) must survive an onslaught, not only from the zombies on site but also from their former crew members.

I was wondering how they were going to keep up the one-shot routine for the entire runtime of the film, given that one of the most well-known example of this type of filmmaking, Birdman, relied on a lot of digital trickery to make it seem like a feature-length movie was all done in one take.  All I can say is do not be fooled when initial credits begin to run, as there is an entire story about how that particular film crew ended up there and why.  A good portion of it is quite hilarious and completely beyond the expectations set up by the rather simple plot of the movie. 

Without saying much more than beyond that, I will say this does not look like the cheap movie it is.  It is quite well made, and while Hamatsu and Shuhama are the most memorable actors, there are parts that allow everyone involved to shine.  There is also a lot of physical comedy involved, as well as quite a bit I missed by not being Japanese.  Still, enough translates well and is quite entertaining.

It was one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I have had in a while, particularly since it was so much better than what the plot synapsis would lead one to believe.  

One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Time: 96 minutes
Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harum Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya
Director: Shin'icherô Ueda

 

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