ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (2017)
aka Kamera o tomeru na!
Directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda
Written by Shin’ichirô Ueda (screenplay), Ryoichi Wada (play)
Starring Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Hiroshi Ichihara, Mao
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD may be one of the most adorable horror films of the year. It’s definitely unlike anything you’ve seen before, celebrating more of the act of filmmaking than actual flesh-eating undeads. But despite some rudimentary edges, ONE CUT OF THE DEAD has an energy and a freshness that oozes from start to finish.
I don’t want to spoil the movie, but I think even if I describe the way this film is put together, the real treat is seeing how it all works as a whole. So, if you really want to experience the film, go in with nothing more than my high recommendation for the film and you’re bound to be completely surprised.
I guess, the following is SPOILER territory. ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is split into three segments. The first 30 minutes is the actual movie—a zombie movie about a zombie movie being filmed in a warehouse that just so happens to occur during the zombie apocalypse. This first third of the film is done in one cut, meaning it’s all done in one take with no edits. Seeing this all play out without edits really is a thrill. Kind of like the thrill it is to see Scorsese pull off those tracking scenes in his films. It is thrilling to see the action, sure, but those who love the making of movies appreciate it a little more as you know how much prep goes in to pulling such a feat off.
The second portion focuses on how the film came to be where we get to know the director who promised such a task (to be aired live on Japanese television, to boot), his cast, crew, producers, backers, and especially his family—a wife who gave up acting early in her career and a daughter who is distant from her father, yet has dreams of directing one day. It’s during this portion that we find out the stakes to which everything is built upon. Part three is the filming of the zombie movie again, but this time we see the hurdles, misfires, and ad lib recoveries from behind the scenes. And there are plenty of them.
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD is a full-on romance novel full of love letters to indie horror filmmaking. Anyone who has seen the behind the scenes footage knows it is often times that the making of portion is filled with more drama than the film itself. This is truly the case here and the way director Shin’ichiro Ueda is able to capture it all is truly remarkable. By presenting the film twice; once at the beginning and then once from the vantage point of behind the scenes of the same movie being made, ONE CUT OF THE DEAD celebrates the trials and achievements both in front of and behind the camera. It is a thorough presentation of the entire process of putting a story to film and it’s simply marvelous.
While the out of synch storytelling might seem confusing, Ueda threads some fantastic character development by breaking up the time in such a manner. In this way, we experience an action, then come to understand why each player made that action, finally piece both action and motivation together in the third act and it resonates all the more. While the method with which this film was made may seem rather rudimentary, it all plays out in a manner that will leave you thinking. The gore in the TV show is hokey, because it is a story about the filming of a zombie movie. When the zombies really attack, the gore is made much more realistic. The same can be said about the acting, as it is stilted and hokey at first, then much more emotional and human once everyone breaks character. The whole film plays out like a tightly budgeted INCEPTION where they are filming a film within a film and then backing up and telling that story again with a wider scope.
I don’t know if I am making my point clear or not. This is a layered movie with a lot to love about the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also manages to tell a heartfelt story of a family who has a deep love for film and thus a deep love for each other. Honestly, this is one of the films you watch with that loved one who doesn’t like horror. It’s so incredibly sweet and well packaged that no one will be able to contain a smile after watching it. ONE CUT OF THE DEAD isn’t a gore-fest. And though it is about the making of a zombie movie, it’s not really a horror movie at all. Still, it is a film that I believe should be seen by anyone with an appreciation of the tireless hours it takes to make a piece of art. See this very precious, very different, very good film as soon as you can!