If you haven’t checked out Shinichirou Ueda’s indie horror comedy hit “One Cut of the Dead” by now then you’ve truly missed out on a prime piece of filmmaking. The film has been a festival darling, has become a hit on streaming and is being given excellent treatment for physical media collectors in a deluxe Steelbook. “One Cut of the Dead” is a genuine horror comedy gem that is best appreciated going in with as little information about it as possible. Although most reviews have given this advice of avoiding any and all spoilers, it’s sage wisdom that will only help improve an already excellent film.
While shooting with his skeleton crew at an abandoned water treatment facility, dictatorial director Takayuki Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) argues with lead actress Aika (Yuzuki Akiyama), insisting she’s not giving him a believable enough performance. Things go south fast when the two tired actors, in the middle of a short break are suddenly caught in the middle of an actual zombie attack, and it’s not long before fantasy becomes reality. From one narrow escape to another in the maze-like facility grounds, Aika struggles to stay alive but director Takayuki couldn’t be happier as he’s finally getting the performances he wanted.
“One Cut of the Dead” has managed to surprise just about everyone that’s come across it, as it’s a movie that shifts shape at every turn. Normally a movie with such tonal shifts would be sloppy, but the narrative is ingeniously handled to where we’re immersed in something that’s as much an experience as it is a film. Director Ueda’s film is decidedly deceptive, and thankfully never feels like it’s cheating the audience at any point. If anything it respects what the audience has invested its time in, and offers up a rewarding narrative that’s filled with complex and interesting characters from beginning to end.
Director Ueda has a genuine love for filmmaking and he brings it to a film that celebrates the art of indie filmmaking, and the struggles that go along with creation. It’s not just the creation of film, but of art, of a work of love, and how something we put so much energy in to, big or small, can be emotionally taxing but ultimately fulfilling. The cast are also fantastic, including Takayuki Hamatsu, and Yuzuki Akiyama, respectively. Harumi Shuhama is the stand out, offering a hysterical turn as a self defense enthusiast. Set for a Hollywood fueled remake very soon, “One Cut of the Dead” is in a league of its own, and warrants a viewing, even if you don’t fancy yourself a horror movie buff.
The combo pack comes in a wonderful collectible Steelbook with the DVD and Blu-Ray copy of the film. Included are four minutes of outtakes and very short deleted and alternate scenes including “Telephone Call from Producer”, “Does She Know the Script?”, “Camera Test”, “Hosada Doesn’t Wake Up”, “Where Has the Script Gone?”, “Swap Over to Saki”, “I Want to Make a Film”, “I’ll Never Drink Again”, and “Cut!” There’s the thirty eight minutes GoPro Version of One Cut of the Dead, raw footage of the entire one-take sequence as seen from the director’s point of view.
Most of the audio is muffled due to the lack of a proper mic setup, but it’s an interesting segment to appreciate the movie from a different perspective. There’s a Photo Gallery with a dozen or so on-set stills with manual navigation. Finally there’s the minute long POM! Instructional Video, the self-defense program seen during One Cut of the Dead.