Tuesday, March 24, 2020

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (2017) Movie Review

One Cut of the Dead (2017) d. Shinichiro Ueda (Japan) (97 min)

I don’t want to diminish anyone’s experience of this fantastic independent effort, one whose against-all-odds genesis and Cinderella success story mirrors its onscreen against-all-odds narrative. So, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading now and track it down because it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

******************* (mild spoilers to follow) *******************

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is less a critical review and more an episode of simply communing with fellow fans. That said, if you’re still reading, I’m guessing you’ve watched the movie, in which case I can say:


I had been hearing quite a bit of buzz about One Cut of the Dead for the last few months, having seen it pop up on a number of “best of” lists at the end of 2019. As such, during an impromptu Share the Scare with Herr Kitley, we decided to break up the physical media parade with a little streaming and dived into the Shudder pool.

I was decidedly underwhelmed to start. At first glance, it’s just another microbudget zombie flick. Okay, it's actually a microbudget zombie flick (yawn) about the filming of a microbudget zombie flick (YAWN) where the cast and crew get attacked by real zombies (YAAAAAAWN), albeit one with the “single-take” gimmick thrown in to grease the wheels. I mean, it’s fine, but it certainly wasn’t knocking me out. I was also aware of a multitude of quirky little moments, but being a well-versed horrorphile, I was unconsciously chalking up to a) its low-budget origins and b) the fact that it was Japanese, i.e. quirky is oftentimes just part of the recipe. I was thisclose to saying, “Eh, we don’t have to watch this,” when the end credits started running… 37 minutes into the movie. Jon, Dawn, and I all looked at each other and said, “Wait, there’s still another hour to go, according to the running time! What the hell…?”

Of course, then the big reveal happens that it’s all a TV stunt and we flash back to how the project began with struggling director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) and all his actors and crew and producers (including his wife and daughter), which all sets up the third act, which is the film’s acte de triomphe: the behind-the-scenes look at the “single-take live event” where viewers get to see how those 37 minutes went down.

This is, as they say, where the gold is, because all those little quirky pauses and character choices that we saw in the beginning? They are all grounded in the reality of having to cover for off-camera mistakes and flukes and freak accidents (recalling the classic 1980s Broadway classic Noises Off). So many wonderful moments witness the project being repeatedly snatched from the jaws of defeat with that time-honored “the show must go on” spirit. Things conclude with a genuinely heart-lifting and triumphant finale, whereupon the viewer – much like the onscreen cast and crew – breathes a collective sigh of relief and camaraderie, not only for the fictitious characters, but for writer/director Ueda and his stalwart team of true believers.

According to online reports, the $25K film was four-walled (where the distributors rent the cinema) in an 84-seat theater in Japan for an initial six-day run in 2017. Thanks to strong word-of-mouth, it continued to run… and run… and run, and then other theaters decided to screen it as well, and then it had a stellar festival run, ultimately racking up $27 million in its home country and another $11 million in overseas box office receipts. It’s now on Amazon Prime and Shudder, where it can (and should) be enjoyed on home video for a long, long time. (As of this writing, there does not appear to be a Region 1 DVD or Blu-ray release in the works, which is a bummer for anyone trying to avoid Amazon’s long reach or streaming services in general.)

So happy to have seen it.




  1. I saw this last year on Shudder and it was one of the best things in years. I had much the same reaction. It was okay, nothing grea... why are the credits already rolling? BAM!

    (I haven't been on Blogger all year, so glad you reminded me it existed.)

    1. I have only myself to blame for not seeing it before now. So many people I know and trust were saying, "OH, YOU GOTTA WATCH THIS" and I was like, "yeah, yeah, yeah, cheap zombie movie, let me put that right to the top of my list NOT" And now I'm going to be that guy saying, "OH, YOU GOTTA WATCH THIS" for a long time to come.

      (good to have you back in the mix, loopy. subscribe and join ussssssss)