Wednesday 2 January 2019

Prime Time: One Cut Of The Dead (2017)

You may or may not be aware that something quite odd happened just a couple of days ago. One Cut Of The Dead went on Amazon Prime. A friend told me about this, and I was delighted. I had heard the festival buzz on the film, had the disc pre-ordered, and figured it would be a perfect way to start the new year (or so I hoped). But it turns out that it wasn't supposed to be there. There has still been no proper explanation, or apology (as far as I am aware), given to Third Window Films, who worked as quickly as they could to minimise the damage, considering that One Cut Of The Dead is also about to get a wider, but still limited, cinema release throughout the UK. After weighing up the good and the bad of the situation, and despite the film no longer being on Amazon Prime right now (because it should not have been there at all), I decided to still review it in this slot, hopefully reminding others about it, and maybe pointing one or two of you along to the cinema, or towards ordering the discs.

Now . . . on with the film review.

One Cut Of The Dead starts off like a standard zombie movie. It then cuts to show the movie being made. And then zombie stuff happens, interrupting the further filming of the zombie movie. And then, after about half an hour, it ends. Which is when we move back in time to see some more plot unfolding, all leading to a third act that, well, let me just say that it pretty much pays off everything that you've seen beforehand, and in a way that is smart, amusing, and quite audacious.

My reactions to One Cut Of The Dead while I was watching it went as follows: hmmm okay, still okay, oh it's doing THAT, now I know how things are going, I suppose that's alright, that can't be the end already, ahh it's not the end, but this stuff isn't all that interesting, I'm not quite sure how this got as much praise as it did, it's really starting to lose me here, oh that's interesting, NOW I know what it's aiming for, oh this is brilliant, oh this is brilliant on a number of levels, mental vision of a standing ovation. I refuse to say any more because part of the beauty of the film comes from seeing how it ultimately comes together.

Written and directed by Shinichiro Ueda, his third feature amongst a selection of shorts, this is a film that demands patience and trust from the viewer, and then rewards everyone with an immensely satisfying third act. Anyone who gives up during after the first third, or at any time before the halfway point, is going to miss out on something that comes close to being sublime, and will simply wonder what everyone else sees in the thing.

There's definitely a slight lag at the mid-point, but even those scenes will reward viewers on repeat viewings, with the mix of enjoyable gags and moments that both echo and foreshadow what plays out in the film within a film. And the gags and dialogue, as well as the apparent low-budget, also help distract, for good and bad, from the fact that the technical work and sheer logistics of the more memorable scenes are absolutely brilliant. This is a small film with big ambitions, and it achieves everything it sets out to achieve.

The main cast members - Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Mao, Harumi Shuhama, and Manabu Hosoi - all do very good work, with Hamatsu the obvious standout as the director tasked with creating the zombie film that opens the proceedings, the end result of a strange and obstacle-laden journey that is revealed later on.

One Cut Of The Dead is a hell of a journey, and those who stick with it may find themselves with a new favourite zombie film. But it's worth bearing in mind that it's not a horror. It's a smart, layered, comedy that happens to have some zombies in it.


You can order the disc here.
Here's a list of the cinemas screening the movie very soon. Please go along and support it if you can.

Image: Third Window Films

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