Film Review: One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Also known as: Kamera o Tomeru na!, lit. Don’t Stop the Camera! (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 4th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Written by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Music by: Nobuhiro Suzuki, Kailu Nagai
Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Ngaya

ENBU Seminar, Panpokopina, 96 Minutes

Review:

Well, it is impossible to really talk about this film without spoiling it. So if you don’t want it spoiled, you might not want to read any further.

For a couple of years now, just about everyone who has seen this movie has really talked it up to me. I’ve been told it’s clever, a game changer and that it’s just too cool to be missed. However, I’ve grown pretty tired of the zombie subgenre of horror, as well as modern horror comedy. If you can’t top The Return of the Living Dead, why even try?

Side note: No one will ever top The Return of the Living Dead because it is perfection. Also, filmmakers should try because maybe someone will prove me wrong.

Anyway, I finally saw this due to it being featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In. Joe Bob really seemed to love the film as well, so I figured that I since I’m already fully committed to whatever Joe Bob wants to throw at me, I’d give this movie a shot.

I guess I’m the only person on Earth that didn’t really like it. Granted, I can appreciate it and the work that went into it, specifically the first 37 minutes that were filmed in a single take. It did take them six tries to get the take right but it’s still a tremendous feat and I love it when filmmakers put a real effort into doing something special, even if they’re far from the first to attempt it.

My problem with the film is that it is never really clear what this is supposed to be. The plot structure is bizarre, which is fine, but it doesn’t gel in a way that makes it all come together for me.

The first 37 minutes are a horror movie within a horror movie. It follows its characters who are in an abandoned World War II facility where they are filming a zombie movie. However, real zombies show up and they have to fight to survive. It’s not a wholly original idea but what is in horror, these days?

This sequence ends with credits rolling and I guess some people left the theater thinking this was just a short film. What follows is the second act, which goes backwards in time to show how the production of the film started. This is all pretty boring and it slows things down quite a bit.

The third act of the film is a return to the location of the first act. Except, this time, we see the events play out from the production standpoint, showing how the opening of the film was shot and made. Then it all ends and I was left wondering what the hell I had just watched and what the point of it was.

From what I understand, the film was produced on a true micro-budget and it was made by film students as their final project. Frankly, that’s exactly what this feels like and looking at it through that lens, it is damn impressive, as it required a lot of technical skill and it looks really good for what it is.

However, that doesn’t mean that I can give it a free pass. Sure, I can respect what went into it and appreciate that stuff but ultimately, it just makes me want to see what the people behind this could do with the right resources behind them.

I don’t think I’d ever have the urge to watch it again but it’s still something I’d recommend to people that want to see what can be done with little to no resources in the modern era of filmmaking. Also, just because it doesn’t resonate with me, doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with others. As I’ve said, most people seem to like the film.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Japanese horror comedies and zombie comedies in general.

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