Once in a while, a film such as One Cut Of The Dead (2017) pops out of nowhere – a no-holds-barred fun, which switches gears in a split of a second and overcomes its minute budget with confidence and wit.
If you lived long enough, you might remember a little nasty flick called The Blair Witch Project (1999), and the commotion it caused upon the release.
It was an ultra-low-budget film which, pretty much, redefined the horror genre worldwide. While big studios were used to ramping up the experience by graphic imagery and gore, a bunch of amateur filmmakers turned the tides by taking a hand-held camera, and mimicking a documentary feature film. Numbers speak for themselves – with a rough budget estimation of $60k, The Blair Witch Project (1999) brought almost $250 million after its cinematic distribution worldwide.
Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut Of The Dead (2017) sends similar vibes. An even smaller budget, which oscillated around $25k, this Japanese flick made over $25,000,000. What was the secret sauce, which brought such a wildly successful investment?
What is One Cut Of The Dead (2017) about?
In One Cut Of The Dead (2017), a crew of Japanese filmmakers are shooting a zombie apocalypse flick. While taking a short break, after an intense scene shot on location, the crew disperses. Soon, one of them returns completely changed… into a zombie.
Surprisingly, the above constitutes circa one third of the film. Because One Cut Of The Dead (2017) evolves, and finds almost endless ways to surprise the audience. Through its 90-minutes run, the story bounces from a low-budget horror to comedy and an ode to the beauty of filmmaking.
An ever-transforming entertainment
I’m intentionally steering away from revealing more of Shin’ichirô Ueda’s plot, because the power of surprise is what drives much of this film’s appeal.
The Japanese director opens with a continuous take – a chore for cinematographer and crew on the set – which is a sweet kick-off for the film. That’s how One Cut Of The Dead (2017) earns its initial hook – by throwing the audience in medias res, and leading the viewers through the spiraling madness of a local zombocalypse.
Over the course of this uninterrupted, 37-minutes long shot, Ueda delves into cheesy horrors resulting from the paradox he creates. The starting premise of filmmakers who are attacked by zombies – when shooting a zombie movie – sounds like a drunk joke. But given Ueda’s kitschy and over-the-top approach, this part of One Cut Of The Dead (2017) delivers plenty of fun for B-movie fans. Moreover, its silly humor guarantees that this drunk joke of a plot works. Unlike self-serious films with equally moronic premises – such as The Human Centipede (2009) – One Cut Of The Dead (2017) is actually fun.
One Cut Of The Dead (2017) only gets better after such a batshit crazy beginning
Without spoiling the plot – and how smartly it plays with its opening shot – Shin’ichirô Ueda tirelessly stuffs One Cut Of The Dead (2017) with twists and turns. At times, it dangerously stretches out to a film made up from Instagram videos grouped under #indiefilmmaking, but even then Ueda gracefully moves between genres and ideas. In his feature, it’s a whole-hearted tribute to the homemade filmmaking.
In order to elicit even more of a Shyamalanesque twist, One Cut Of The Dead (2017) transforms our perception of the characters too. In the beginning, most of them strike as flat, and idiotic, while the brains of the operation – director played by sweetly tacky Takayuki Hamatsu – is a straight-out douchebag who sacrifices the crew just to get the ‘perfect shot‘.
These initial opinions change. When seen in a different light – or through different camera lenses – characters gain new traits, and the audience allocates warmer feelings elsewhere. And let’s be honest – a plot, where character arches exist, is a rarity for horror movies.
One Cut Of The Dead (2017) – high entry barrier, but with a satisfactory end
Having said all that, I think that the entry barrier for Shin’ichirô Ueda’s flick is still relatively high. If not for the neat trick with the continuous shot, I might have lost interest in how things evolve. Two main reasons for this are that the gore leaves the most “meaty” details away from the camera, meanwhile the writing is rough on the edges – to say the least. Ueda takes a fair loan and expects trust, hoping that the long boot-up that the story requires, will eventually take off. In my opinion, this is fully paid-off, and with a gratifying margin. Just give it enough time to flourish.
One Cut Of The Dead (2017) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
With one master shot, a few prosthetics and loads of fresh, and the witty ways to fiddle with the viewer’s expectations, this Japanese movie is a perfect example of how to maximize fun under serious budget constraints.
One Cut Of The Dead (2017)
Hate Grade: 2/10
Original title: Kamera wo tomeruna!
Director: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Writer: Shin’ichirô Ueda, Ryoichi Wada
Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Suzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya
Cinematography: Takeshi Sone
Music: Shorma Ito, Kyle Nagai, Nobuhiro Suzuki
Similar movies to One Cut Of The Dead (2017):
- The Blair Witch Project (1999) – an absolute must for those, who liked Shin’ichirô Ueda’s low-budget inventiveness
- Train to Busan (2016) – this Korean flick is another fresh take on the zombie movies genre
- Juan of the Dead (2011) – a Spanish comedy, which takes the zombie business on a ride full of gore and one-note, but nonetheless spot-on jokes
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) – George A. Romero’s timeless classic, and a total must-see for zombie fans