You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Zombie Comedy ‘One Cut of the Dead’ Attracts Crowds and Controversy

“One Cut of the Dead,” a zombie comedy directed by newcomer Shinichiro Ueda, has taken the Japanese box office by storm, much the way “The Blair Witch Project” did nearly two decades ago.

Similar to that forerunner, “One Cut of the Dead” cost almost nothing to make. The officially announced budget was $27,000 (JPY3.0 million). And it was cast with unknowns, mostly through auditions at Enbu Seminar, the Tokyo acting and directing school that produced the film.

Shot over eight days on location north of Tokyo, the film screened at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in March this year, and the following month it had its international premiere at the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy, where it won the second-place audience award. “Seeing 500 fans at Udine applaud for five minutes gave us confidence,” says Koji Ichihashi, Enbu Seminar president and the film’s producer.

After more festival screenings, where it received a rapturous reception from audiences and critics, “One Cut” had its commercial release in Japan on June 23 on two screens. Boosted by dozens of favorable comments Ueda and Ichihashi had solicited from actors, directors and entertainment personalities, the film sold out screening after screening.

As the film packed in fans, the media took notice. “It became a news item, with newspapers, magazines and TV shows reporting on it,” says Ichihashi. “That hardly ever happens with an independent film here.”

Enbu Seminiar, which occupies two rooms in a weathered Tokyo office building, acquired a partner in mid-level distributor Asmik Ace and the film began to play in downtown multiplexes of Toho, Japan’s biggest exhibitor and distributor.

As of this week, “One Cut” was showing on 200 screens, while its admissions had passed the 300,000 mark. Cumulative box office is near to $8 million (JPY1.0 billion).
Ichihashi confesses that the film didn’t immediately strike him as a hit when Ueda first pitched it. “From the script alone, I couldn’t visualize what the film would be like,” he said. “It was all in Ueda’s head. But when I saw the reaction at the first screenings I realized that it was some sort of masterpiece.”

Questions have arisen about just how much of that “masterpiece” is Ueda’s own creation, however. On Aug. 21 the weekly magazine Flash ran an article on the film with the headlines “Suspicion of copyright infringement” and an interview with Ryoichi Wada, a theater director and playwright. He claimed that “One Cut” was an adaptation of his play

“Ghost in the Box,” which his theater troupe Peace had performed from 2011 to 2014.
Ueda had previously admitted that the film’s two-level structure – a 37-minute no-cut sequence about the zombie invasion of a chaotic film shoot, followed by a recap of how the film came to be – was inspired by “Ghost in the Box.” But he denied that he had simply adapted Wada’s play. In a Facebook post yesterday Ueda stressed that “One Cut” is “an original work that I scripted, directed and edited.” “I will definitely lend an ear to the claims of Wada and his troupe. I feel we can reach an amicable agreement,” he added.

On Tuesday, Enbu Seminar issued a statement saying that “there is no truth” to the Flash headlines and that the article itself was “inaccurate.” “We have been engaged in negotiations with representatives of the play and have been discussing our responses (to their demands), including credits and other conditions… but we strongly resent the insinuations of the article.”

Ueda’s assessment of the controversy to his Facebook friends was more upbeat: “I hope that someday I can make something interesting together with Wada and his troupe. I’m dreaming of that miracle future. Tomorrow ‘One Cut of the Dead” will again screen full of energy.”

More Film

  • Most Memorable Oscar Speeches in Academy

    The Most Memorable Oscar Speeches in Academy History (Watch)

    No Academy Awards is complete without some emotional acceptance speeches on stage – and some political ones to boot. With just 90 seconds to make an impact, many actors have used the platform as a voice for political change, calling attention to hot-button issues like climate change and gender equality, while others have simply reveled [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Arrested, in Custody of Chicago Police

    Jussie Smollett has been arrested and faces criminal charges for allegedly filing a false police report and for disorderly conduct. Chicago police tweeted Thursday morning that the “Empire” actor was under arrest and in custody of detectives. Smollett claimed that he had been attacked by two men on Jan. 29 — he said they beat [...]

  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959, born Eleanora Fagan)

    Billie Holiday Documentary Draws Buyers as Concord Boards Project

    Concord, the successor to the Billie Holiday Estate, has boarded James Erskine’s documentary “Billie,” which tracks the iconic jazz singer’s life. Altitude Film Sales has sold the project to several territories. Also joining the project, now in post-production, is the Brazilian colorization artist Marina Amaral. Most of the filmed and still images that exist of [...]

  • My Extraordinary Summer With Tess review

    Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess'

    Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, the family-friendly, light drama “My Extraordinary Summer With Tess” is straightforward youth cinema with surprising emotional depth. Based on a prize-winning novel by Anna Woltz, a beloved Dutch writer of work for young readers, it explores family relationships and emphasizes the importance of [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

  • Ghost Fleet review

    Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet'

    The revelatory documentary “Ghost Fleet” condemns the modern-day slave labor fueling the Thai fishing industry while focusing on the work of Bangkok-based advocacy organization Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN), a group dedicated to ending slavery at sea. Combining chilling testimony from formerly enslaved men, some wincingly arty recreations of their ordeals, and on-the-ground footage [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA Plans March 25 Member Vote on Talent Agency Rules

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America plan a March 25 vote for members to decide whether to implement tough new restrictions on how Hollywood talent agencies as operate as agents for writer clients. The vote comes as the guild is in the midst of pitched negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents to renew [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content