Made for a measly ￥3 million (approximately RM110,000) with a cast of unknowns and newcomers, it’s easy to dismiss that Shinichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead is nothing more than a bargain-basement type of cheap genre movie.
But here’s the thing, One Cut of the Dead turns out to be one of the best zombie movies ever made in recent memory. No wonder the movie has been receiving nothing but glowing reviews when it first played at a small arthouse cinema in Japan in November last year. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth and subsequent wide exposure in various film festivals, One Cut of the Dead has since become a critical favourite and a surprise hit at the Japanese box office, reportedly making more than 250 times its budget!
The story follows a film crew led by director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu), as they set out to shoot a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII facility. However, things took an unexpected turn when… well, this is the kind of movie where the less you know the better.
Most of the hype surrounding One Cut of the Dead is the 37-minute opening scene shot entirely on an unbroken, single take. No doubt a great technical achievement while Uera also successfully meshed the zombie genre with a great deal of horror, comedy and suspense that feels both fresh and wildly entertaining at the same time. And despite its minuscule budget, the movie features a remarkable use of old-school practical effects and Uera never shy away when comes to displaying copious amounts of blood, gore and violence in a gleeful fashion.
While the second act does sag in the middle to give way for both story and characters development, One Cut of the Dead manages to pick up the pace in the climactic third act. This is where the movie impresses me the most, even better than the heavily-hyped opening 37-minute single-take sequence. Here, Ueda had a field day mocking and satirising the gruelling process of shooting a low-budget movie. Those who worked in a production before would find this movie relatable enough as Ueda explored everything from tight deadline to egos and behind-the-scene mishaps to gamely hilarious effect.
The cast delivers excellent performances all around, with Takayuki Hamatsu and Harumi Shuhama particularly stole most of the show as the dedicated director and the director’s makeup artist wife, Nao.