‘One Cut of the Dead’ is Pure, Uncut Joy

by Nick Spacek on September 16, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Up]

“While shooting a low-budget zombie film in an abandoned warehouse, the crew find themselves caught between actual zombies and a mad director who won’t stop rolling. If you think you know what happens next, think again. Filmmaker Shinichiro Ueda turns the film on its head more than once for one of the wildest, funniest, and most surprising zombie movies of all time.”

It’s very, very difficult to discuss director Shinichiro Ueda’s Japanese smash film, One Cut of the Dead, without getting into spoiler territory. Somehow, someway, I managed to avoid any and all reveals with the slight exception of an email noting, “Please note that the movie does not, in fact, end at the 37-minute mark… but rather, truly begins,” which is honestly pretty minor.

In order to preserve this magical experience for you, the potential audience going to see this on Tuesday, September 17, at either the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet or Screenland Armour, we’re going to go vague. First, let’s discuss the general feeling one gets from watching One Cut of the Dead, which is pure and unfettered joy. It takes a minute to kick in, but once you realize that the entirety of those opening 37 minutes is one unbroken single take, it’s off to the races. The sheer audacity of crafting a zombie film wherein the camera never stops rolling is impressive.

While it’s a little a rough around the edges, the fact that it exists at all, and still manages to be entertaining would be enough to recommend seeing One Cut of the Dead. The special effects of the one-cut zombie bloodbath are even more impressive once the movie’s rolled its actual final credits another hour later, and the fact that this movie was made for the equivalent of $25,000 dawns on you. One Cut of the Dead ends up being a master class in economy by the end of it, as if Robert Rodriguez’s 10-Minute Film School were actually part of El Mariachi.

Sorry, sorry, sorry! That’s a little too close to spoiler territory, but it’s a very valid point. One Cut of the Dead is a film which is going to reward multiple, if not innumerable viewings. Just one screening of the film isn’t going to be enough, if for no other reason than to see how the film’s actors demonstrate a flexibility rarely seen in big budget productions, to say nothing of low budget zombie cinema.

The ultimate case in point is the in-film director, Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu). Seeing his journey through frustrations and madness, as well as the surprise at discovering their underlying reasons, is as satisfying as a feeling as I’ve ever had walking away from a film. Hamatsu is asked to some really heavy lifting over the course of One Cut of the Dead, and he carries that load in a way which is almost unnoticeable. His tonal shifts are brilliant, and while actress Harumi Shuhama might get to have a lot more fun in her role, it’s far more hilarious than touching.

There are flaws, but they’re intentionally left to in to create atmosphere. Trust me on this one. You’re going to see some weird, mistake-looking scenes as you start watching One Cut of the Dead, and you’re going to want to roll your eyes. Give it a bit. If patience is a virtue, with this film it’s an absolute necessity. Genre fans are going to be able to roll with whatever Ueda has to throw at them. However, folks talked into attending this by friends who were like, “No, remember – you liked Train to Busan!” when told they don’t like horror might struggle for a few minutes. Just stay with it, folks — all will be revealed and rewarded in due time.

After seeing One Cut of the Dead, the sense of elation is like experiencing pure, uncut joy for the first time in years. Maybe it’s a tad hyperbolic, but if you’ve had any rough patches at anytime surrounding your first viewing of Shinichiro Ueda’s delightful new film, they will be washed away by the time you’ve stood up and munched the last of your popcorn.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and as Music Editor for The Pitch.


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