As zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland bring a sense of humor to this post apocalyptic subgenre, Japanese film One Cut of the Dead takes it one step further by going full meta.
It takes the same tropes we see associated with zombie films and blends them with self-aware humor based around the film industry itself (much like Tropic Thunder). So let’s take a look at the newest Shudder exclusive!
Impressive First Half
In a strange way, One Cut of the Dead feels like two films in one. The first half (or first third to be more accurate), comprises entirely of one long take, which does not cut for over 30 minutes.
Apparently it took two days to get the take just right, and it’s quite amazing they were able to do it. The entire sequence shows us a zombie film being made, while actual zombies begin to attack them.
All the while, the crazed director insists they keep on shooting to capture all the action. It’s a long, entertaining, and at times hilarious scene, the feels like guerilla filmmaking at its best. Then, after only about 40 minutes in, the opening credits roll, and we realize that this was merely the opening scene.
Funny, But Less Focused Second Half
From there, we jump back one month in time and see the making of this opening sequence, as the director takes part in a live TV experiment, meant to make their audience believe it all.
However, we the audience, can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it really was one big gimmick. It’s self-aware and funny, but it completely shifts genre away from horror into mockumentary comedy much like The Office or Parks and Recreation.
There’s nothing wrong with these series, but it does feel like a huge shift away from what the beginning of the film was setting up. It was much more interesting when we thought it truly was a psychotic director willing to do anything to get his film right, even exposing his actors to “real” zombies.
Commentary on Media
While it doesn’t necessary work as a zombie film, One Cut of the Dead, does work as a witty satire of reality TV. It’s quite reminiscent of a Japanese prank series, in which children were legitimately terrified as “zombies” attacked their house. It seeks to remind us that in this medium, we can never trust and anything is truly “real”.
Overall, One Cut of the Dead doesn’t truly live up to what its zombie synopsis promises, but it delivers something else entirely, which is still funny and entertaining.