If there’s one thing that Fantastic Fest has done for me in 7 years, its highlight Asian Cinema. And Japan always brings some of the most weird and brilliant stuff. Enter One Cut of the Dead at this year’s festival. I knew very little about the plot, and the trailer looked schlocky. But it had done amazing at other festivals. And had shown to acclaim nation wide in Japan. So what is going on with this movie? Well, I had to see it to find out, and you get to read the review now. You lucky people you.
So what is the plot of One Cut of the Dead you ask? Well, there’s a lot that I can’t get into. Lets just say that the first 30 minutes is really what you think if you saw the trailer that I did. Its a schlocky B, or even C-Grade zombie movie. It starts with a film crew filming a movie, but then it seems there’s real zombies. And the crazed director is filming his cast fighting these real zombies, you know instead of running. But it is done in one cut, as the name suggests. But the run time of this movie isn’t 30 minutes. There’s a whole hour past that. So what changes? I really can’t tell you, but I can say its fantastic!
I don’t think I can praise writer/director Shin’ichirô Ueda enough here. One Cut of the Dead is a brilliant subversion of expectations and it all works. There are layers on layers that it peels back that will have you in awe as you laugh riotously. For being his first feature it is downright amazing how well this works. The camera work is clever, the staging of scenes feels guerilla, and the humor will have you in tears. I don’t know what else I can say about it without spoiling any of it, but I just loved what he did.
I also want to highlight some of the cast of One Cut of the Dead. Because they all had to give a few different performances. Takayuki Hamatsu has no other film or TV credits and yet he plays Director Higurashi who is a focus of the film. He hits the madness needed in the beginning and then such a great range of emotions as the film progresses. Yuzuki Akiyama, again no other credits, is the heroine of the zombie movie, Chinatsu , and holds her own with all the twists. Harumi Shuhama had one minor credit before this, but as the makeup artist Nao she is a progressively more deranged spitfire. Quite honestly I could go on for a while about them all, but I’ll be damned if I could without revealing more. And I won’t do that disservice to you all.
I can’t speak highly enough of One Cut of the Dead. Ignore the trailer and what you might see from the outside before you go in. Just trust that all the hype you’ve heard is correct. This is one of the best films I’ve seen at Fantastic Fest in years. One Cut of the Dead is an instant classic in my eyes. I can’t wait to see it again!