×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘One Cut of the Dead’

Shinichiro Ueda's marvelously inventive horror-comedy breathes new life into the zombie genre.

Director:
Shinichiro Ueda
With:
Takayuki Hamatsu, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Mao

1 hour 36 minutes

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7914416/?ref_=nm_knf_t1

Viewers get three films for the price of one in “One Cut for the Dead,” a terrific Japanese horror-comedy that proves there’s somewhere the zombie apocalypse movie hasn’t yet gone. Writer-director-editor Shinichiro Ueda’s cleverly conceived and executed debut feature opens with an unbroken 37-minute shot of monster mayhem before hitting the reset button and turning into a funny satire of low-budget genre filmmaking — and eventually becoming a charming family comedy-drama. Packed with witty nods to classic horror movies, “One Cut” is a natural for genre fests and has such a warm and winning heart it could also fit into mainstream festival programs. A limited local release is planned for June 23.

Going virtually unnoticed in Japan since its late 2017 completion, “One Cut” announced itself in fine style as runner-up in the audience vote at Udine, one of Europe’s key gateway events for Asian popular cinema. The film’s crowd appeal can largely be attributed to its irresistibly bouncy spirit. Once Ueda flips the switch, it positively sparkles with the infectious “C’mon everyone, let’s put on a show!” enthusiasm that’s served the movies so well since the days of Andy Hardy.

Before the rewind-and-replay shenanigans commence, we’re in found-footage territory. A film crew is shooting a zombie schlocker in an abandoned water treatment plant that was supposedly used for “human reanimation experiments” by the Japanese army. Calling the shots is frazzled director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu), who’s going ballistic at lead actress Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) for flubbing 42 takes of a scene in which she’s attacked by zombiefied boyfriend Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya).

Soon after Higurashi storms off set and makeup lady Nao (Harumi Syuhama) steps in to comfort Chinatsu, all hell breaks loose with a real zombie outbreak. Thinking he’s hit the jackpot, a crazed Higurashi orders what’s left of his crew to keep shooting. “This is true filmmaking!” he screams. For viewers, that means 20  minutes of cheerfully gory and highly entertaining splatter action. The highlight is Nao’s transformation from mousey crew member to kick-ass zombie killer.

Forty minutes in, the story flashes back to one month earlier. What we’ve just seen is a live broadcast for a new zombie-dedicated television channel. Ueda’s sharply satirical script shows how Higurashi, a low-rent karaoke video-maker whose motto is, “I’m fast, cheap, but average,” landed the job and recruited a cast and crew of oddballs, drama queens, drunks and newcomers, including his moody teenage daughter, Mao (Mao).

While it could never match the fast and furious nature of what’s preceded it, this section still provides plenty of chuckles, and casts Higurashi in a new and much more sympathetic light, as he strives to achieve something spectacular in a career marked by mediocrity. Importantly, it’s also revealed that he’s married to Nao, an actress returning to the screen after abandoning her career many years earlier.

All these character details pay off handsomely, in a fabulous final segment showing how the live broadcast was pulled off. Thanks to Ueda’s meticulously mapped-out screenplay and split-second editing, the jokes are just as funny the second time around, often for delightfully different reasons.

“One Cut” captures all the craziness and exhilaration of movie-making on a minuscule budget. High-energy performances from a cast of little-knowns are perfectly tuned to the material. The outstanding technical package is a great example of how to create a Poverty Row look for what’s actually a very sophisticated filmmaking exercise.

 

Film Review: ‘One Cut of the Dead’

Reviewed online in Adelaide, Australia, May 3, 2018. (In Udine Film Festival) Running time: 96 MIN. (Original title: “Camera wo tomeru na!”)

Production: (Japan) An ENBU Seminar release of an ENBU Seminar production in association with Panpokopina. (International sales: Third Window Films, London; Nikkatsu, Tokyo.) Producer: Koji Ichihashi.

Crew: Director, writer, editor: Shinichiro Ueda. Camera (color, HD), Tsuyoshi Sone.

With: Takayuki Hamatsu, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Mao, Manabu Hosoi, Hiroshi Ichihara, Syuntaro Yamazaki, Shinichiro Osawa, Yoshiko Takehara, Miki Yoshida, Sakina Asamori, Ayana Goda.

Music By: Kailu Nagai, Nobuhiro Suzuki.

More Film

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. More Reviews [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content