There are good movies, there are great movies, and then there are movies that deliver joy to every bone in your body. One Cut of the Dead is all of those and more.
While the film is a flat-out hilarious, genius take on the zombie genre that will immediately make you want to watch it again and again, unfortunately, it's also one of those movies that, if you know too much about it, will lose a just little of its brilliance. So, I'm going to keep things spoiler free here and then drop a spoiler warning before I hint as to why this movie is one of our favourites of the year.
The basic premise of One Cut of the Dead, at least at the start, is a group of people is making a low budget zombie movie in a warehouse. Then, during production, it seems like an actual zombie invasion is starting outside. Unhappy with the way his cast is reacting, the director just keeps rolling, hoping to get real, authentic reactions.
As the title suggests, all of this happens in one take. Director Shinichiro Ueda has crafted a wildly elaborate and impressive shot that isn't exactly perfect, but feels natural, fun and is full of curious oddities. Then, as the take goes on, we discover more and more about what's happening both inside the warehouse and out which, obviously, isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
Every few years a zombie movie stands out by doing something wildly different with the genre. Shaun of the Dead is one. 28 Days Later another. And now, I think it's safe to say, One Cut of the Dead is on that list. It's radically different from those movies, as well as all the George Romero masterpieces it owes its legacy to, but it sets a new comedic standard for the genre.
I'm going to go just a tiny bit deeper now but I urge you, if any of the above interests you in the slightest, seek this movie out immediately.
OK, here's the smallest of spoilers to give just a bit more context: Everything I describe above happens in the first 30 minutes of the movie.
There's another hour left and I don't even want to describe what that entails. Hopefully, the knowledge that it continues beyond the one take is more than enough to pique your interest even further. As I was watched it, I just kept getting more and more intrigued.
Layers are added, characters are developed, and then the final act provides a new perspective on everything in the first act, creating one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a very, very long time. One Cut of the Dead is a not just a deconstruction of the zombie genre, it's a love letter to filmmaking itself, the likes of which we rarely see.
One Cut of the Dead debuted last year in Japan to rave reviews and huge box office numbers and has since been playing the worldwide festival circuit.