One Cut of the Dead / Kamera o Tomeru na! (2017)
If you haven’t seen this Japanese film, I’d highly recommend you to stop reading after this paragraph and just go see the film. Also, don’t go checking out its synopsis, genre or watch its trailers. It’d be a more unexpectedly mind-blowing experience if you knew nothing about it. If you did see a bit of its trailer, don’t be fooled by its deliberately low budget, school project-like, cliched zombie flick presentation. That’s how the film’s first 37 minutes appear to be before it “resets” and becomes a complete different movie. That’s all I can say within this paragraph without spoiling the fun. Pom!
Directed and written by Shinichiro Ueda (Neko Bun No 4, Rice and Boobs), One Cut of the Dead opens with a 37-minute one-shot film about a small group of actors and crew who’re making a zombie flick at an abandoned warehouse. Little did they know the place is cursed and they soon find themselves attacked by actual zombies but the director continues to film his actors as though it’s a reality TV show.
At this point, I actually thought the zombies are real in the story despite the flaws, errors and awkward moments that I didn’t know were actually deliberate. It’s dumb and yet the film manages to retain its creepy atmosphere until the fictional closing credit rolls and the film reveals itself to be a movie about a movie. Well, to be exact, a full-fledged comedy about how that cheap, single-take live broadcast zombie show was done. Almost like Bowfinger (1999) but not really.
After the opening 37 minutes, the film takes us back to a month ago and slows its pacing down a little to develop the actual characters and plot — mainly Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu), the low-budget director hired to direct live zombie flick, and his problematic actors, production crew and family, who’re all involved in the project. The performances by the cast are right on the money. Some have multiple layers in their acting, like the actors who portray as difficult actors in the film of the film.
The payoff in the intense, energetic final act is absolutely fantastic where it depicts how exactly the entire 37-minute zombie show was broadcast live without cuts or edits at all, and reveals all the really funny obstacles faced and handled during the production which caused the strange flaws and errors. There’s a lot of oh-no-wonder-that-happened. I don’t remember the last time I laughed out loud so much along with the entire cinema hall within the whole final 30 minutes or so of a movie. It is outrageously hilarious.
There’s not a whole lot of genuinely funny comedies these days but One Cut of the Dead succeeds with inspiring innovation and originality. Not to mention that it IS actually a low budget film made with only 3 million yen (USD 26,400). I was actually already a bit impressed by the first 37-minute single-take tracking shot as that itself is already highly difficult to do, and then I was beyond impressed when it’s revealed to be a meticulous or reverse-engineered setup for gags and another story. The film also manages to deliver a bit of satire on Japan’s film industry, and a heartfelt father-daughter drama on the side, as though the brilliant humour isn’t surprising enough.
What I would’ve named the film: “Don’t Be the Idiot Who Walked Out of the Cinema Before The Actual Movie Starts After 37 Minutes”
Malaysian censorship: I doubt any scene needed to be censored. Though I’m not sure why the film was stated to be 90 minutes by our local distributor/cinema but 96/97 minutes on IMDb and Wikipedia.
Second opinion: My girlfriend gave the film a high praise as well, saying that it’s “super nice; creepy but funny”.
Verdict: Comedy films are rarely considered as “art” but One Cut of the Dead definitely is one. Well, to me at least.
Rating: 5 / 5
Country / Language: Japan / Japanese
Japanese Title: カメラを止めるな!
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director-writer: Shinichiro Ueda
Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Manabu Hosoi, Hiroshi Ichihara
Malaysia Release Date: 20 December 2018 (TGV Cinemas only)
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Enbu Seminar