Zombie films weren’t going away any time soon but they definitely needed a shot in the arm, a little pep in their step and a new direction. Shin’ichirô Ueda’s One Cut of The Dead gives the genre all these things by not making it about the undead but the different personalities that emerge throughout. Completely unique with a plot best kept hidden until viewing, this horror comedy will stick with you for a long time.
Telling the story of a crazed director who heads out to an abandoned water treatment plant to film a 37 minute long single take zombie film, he is elated to find out that actual zombies have emerged on his isolated set and his actors must struggle to stay alive as he continues filming the carnage.
The first thing to know about Ueda’s genre distorting film is that if you are expecting a straight zombie flick you are in the wrong place. This is designed to lampoon the genre as well as embrace it. Part comedy, mockumentary and mystery film Ueda dips his toes into multiple pools as he plays with people’s perceptions. Not only is there plenty here to say about how we view the entertainment industry but also cinema as an art-form. Most of all though, it points to the collaborative nature of cinema and the almost familial bond that comes from working on the same piece.
For such a low-budget film, One Cut is a technical marvel not only through how it’s filmed, a mixture of satire and genuine love, but also by the films structure. Circular in nature, Ueda lays down the groundwork at first before paying it off in one rapturously funny final act. Plot threads you thought ignored are left dangling until the opportune moment just to mess with you. In a way the film plays an elaborate prank on viewers and has absolutely zero shame about it.
Fundamentally about family it doesn’t push any boundaries through its themes, merely through its dynamic story structure. That isn’t to say that Ueda hasn’t constructed something with plenty of heart, something that this tale wears on its sleeve. One note characters burst into life as the film breaks into its second act as the film brings context to a thoroughly confusing first chapter. Giving way to genuine emotion, Ueda uses the films comedic moments to hide not only his own love of cinema but his characters. He equally takes advantage of his emotional beats to imbue the film with some much appreciated comedy.
It’s not a perfect film but this was never supposed to be the next Oscar hopeful. This is clever, adventurous film-making from someone with an adoration of the cinema that has inspired him. There are few people out there making films that demand just one thing from their audiences but achieve so much more. Shin’ichirô Ueda made something designed to be, most of all, fun and everything else that comes with it is just the cherry on top.