One Cut of the Dead Review

★★★★★

Directed by: #ShinichirôUeda

Written by: #ShinichirôUeda

Starring: #TakayukiHamatsu, #YuzukiAkiyama, #HarumiShuhama, #KazuakiNagaya, #Mao

Film Review by: #DarrenTilby



Every now and then, a film comes along that takes you completely by surprise. Sometimes because it was better than you were expecting, sometimes because it was worse. Sometimes it's because of a twist ending, and sometimes it's because the ending was so obvious, you hadn't seen it coming. With One Cut of the Dead, however, it's something...else.


Advert director, Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) is hired by a new start-up channel – focussing on zombie-related programming – to do a short zombie movie. The catch? The movie must be filmed with just one camera. In a single take. And, broadcast live. Quite the challenge for a director who describes himself as “fast, cheap but average.”


The first 37-minutes of One Cut of the Dead is that short film. And is itself, shot in a single take. The film is full of patchy acting, awkward silences and unconvincing levels of gore. Exactly what you'd expect from a low-budget zombie flick. So much so, you don't really think anything of these weird little moments at the time. Now, a 37-minute long single take is nothing to sneer at. In fact, it's quite an accomplishment in its own right. But the film only gets better as it goes on. The last hour of One Cut of the Dead details the making of that short film. And towards the end, as everything starts to come together, and these little oddities begin making sense. You'll find yourselves smiling uncontrollably. Just like I was.


The cast is phenomenal throughout. But what's more, they represent a mockery of acting clichés we're all familiar with: there is the alcoholic actor, the high-maintenance actor, the method actor, the actor whose every film has to be artistic, and the actress who isn't an actress at all, but has been hired because she's a well-known pop star. Of course, they all have their own list of demands and things they aren't willing to do. And watching director Higurashi during the film's climax as he attempts to juggle them all, while also trying to make this incredibly high-demand film, is just a huge joy.


One Cut of the Dead is one of those films that, on the surface, can seem like a cheap lampooning of low-cost film-making. But, in reality, it’s more about championing independent movies and the intuition needed by filmmakers to make up for the lack of available funds. Standout performances from Takayuki Hamatsu and Harumi Shuhama are anchored by a superb supporting cast. While Shin’ichirô Ueda’s ballsy direction and clever writing impart an intelligence and nuance to this film, you’d be forgiven for thinking it could not possess. This is damn fine film-making, and you should seek it out immediately.