Saturday, 16 February 2019

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD review


During the filming of a low budget horror movie, the cast and crew suddenly find that they're under attack from the very things they thought weren't real. Zombies. As the director tries to capture the madness on camera, the action follows the lead actress in her attempts to survive this bizarre and unexpected turn of events.

Shin'ichirĂ´ Ueda's Cut of the Dead is a zombie film, the likes of which you haven't seen before. The film starts in the middle of the 42nd take of a zombie attack, breaking when the director is frustrated by the lack of authenticity in the performance of his leads. As they chat and prepare for the next run through, the single take continues to film as lead actress Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) and heartthrob Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) find themselves in real peril when the crew starts to turn into flesh hungry maniacs. Okay, so far so meta.... but wait, as One Cut of the Dead has plenty more tricks up its bloodied sleeves.

I would recommend seeing this film (and I most definitely DO recommend seeing this film) with as little prior knowledge as possible, as the many surprises it has in store for you are an absolute delight to discover. I'm going to avoid heavy spoilers, but it's impossible to review this film without giving away something. More than just a found footage style horror, One Cut of the Dead is a story that is told to us a few times over from different angles, some following the process of making the first portion of the film and some moving onto a broader scope that will have you applauding its ingenuity. It's meta, but without the snarky 'wink wink, nudge nudge' you might associate with the practice.

It's also incredibly funny. There's a perverse joy in seeing the crazed director (Takayuki Hamatsu) continually put his cast in harms way as he puts a camera in their face, shouting "action!", and as the film piles up the body parts and rushes its camera through dense shrubbery, there's definite nods to Peter Jackson's low budget gore-fest, Bad Taste. The film isn't light on splatter and throws everything it's got towards (and sometimes on) the camera lens, and as the film peels away its layers like some sort of zombie onion, gorehounds will love the reveals of its methods.

Of the different approaches to telling us the story of the making of the film within the film (still keeping up?), the simple and effective first segment and final re-telling that puts everything we've seen before (including what appeared to be mistakes made in the long, single take) in a new perspective are the most satisfying parts, with an unfortunate drop off in energy in the middle segment when it ceases to be a single take. It has a change of style that is jarring at first and that had me worried that this film had lost its edge, but thankfully it doesn't take long to recalibrate yourself when you understand (or when you think you understand) what the film is doing, with plenty more crowd pleasing reveals still to come.

More of a film about filmmaking than anything else, the greatest triumph of One Cut of the Dead is how it is able to re-invent and re-contextualise itself, right before your eyes. In every way imaginable this is a vibrant love letter to the creative, collaborative spirit of independent filmmaking. It's Living (Dead) in Oblivion for the digital filmmaking era, proving there's life in the zombie genre yet.

Verdict
4/5

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