ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (October 26th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
I'm obviously biased in saying that Shaun of the Dead is the best zombie comedy ever made. The website is named after a line from the film after all. However generally speaking, horror comedies are not a sub genre I am overly enthused by. They can be great when done properly but the mixture of those two genres is notoriously tricky. Zombie Comedies (or Zom-Coms) are a relatively new phenomenon and we've had a clutch of them since Edgar Wright's smash hit; Warm Bodies, Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse, Life After Beth, Zombieland are all decent enough but they can't topple Shaun of the Dead off the top spot. However there is a film that made headlines last year that some apparently consider to be superior to my beloved favourite. It's this kind of hype that has put me off seeing it to some degree. Sky high expectations can damage a viewing experience and as I trawled through reviews of this film on my phone I found myself wondering if maybe the hype is justified. It's got a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and that's a pretty good indicator of a good movie. So I bit the bullet and settled down to watch Shinichiro Ueda's One Cut of the Dead.
Oh how to even begin to explain the plot of this film? It's not an easy task because there are several layers to it and several narrative leaps that completely change the complexion and tone of the film. Also I think it's one of those films where you know as little as possible going into it. But hey, I'll give a brief summary anyway. The film begins on the set of a low-budget zombie film called One Cut of the Dead, which is being filmed at an abandoned water plant. However, when it appears that several of the crew have been turned into actual zombies, things get a bit crazy as you'd imagine. We then follow a small group of the cast and crew as they try and survive the ensuing chaos. However, there is a twist after the thirty minute mark that propels the film in a completely new direction. I don't think I will say any more than that actually because it will ruin the movie for those who haven't seen it and know very little about it.
It probably is worth knowing that there is a shift after the end of the first act however, as during the first thirty minutes or so you might be thinking 'why has this film received so many plaudits?'. It's not as if it's bad per se, it's just a pretty average, whacky, low budget zombie flick, albeit with a few weird moments that appear to be clunky – but which are brilliantly explained later on in the film. The middle act of the film is fine but it's the last half an hour where the film really takes off. It's frenetic and clever and hilarious and I enjoyed every minute of it. Stuff that happens in the early stages of the film that seem a little 'off' are justified in a variety of inventive and side-splitting ways. I wish I could go into the finer details but it would genuinely spoil the surprise.
There are additional reasons why One Cut of the Dead has received almost universal praise (it has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Firstly, the whole thing was shot in just 8 days on a budget of around $25,000 – which even by indie film standards, is peanuts. It's a Blair Witch level of creativity and genius. To make a movie so self aware and that's so true to the art of amateur film-making and for it to be so effective is pretty remarkable. I sometimes think that overseas comedies can be a bit hit and miss due to culture differences but this is a film that's universally funny. Everyone will get it, because so much of it is visual. One Cut of the Dead is really a gory comedy – there are no scares or attempts at tension – even in the blood soaked first thirty minutes. But it doesn't matter, it's not really interested in that side of things. Neither is Shaun of the Dead either to be frank. Both of these movies are just comedies that play on horror tropes and both forgo the scares for a focus on characters and some sense of emotional underpinning. In Shaun of the Dead, we have Shaun and his relationships with his mother, step-dad, best mate and long suffering girlfriend. In One Cut of the Dead, it's mainly about the director and his relationship with hi daughter – but the cast and crew all feel like one big family by the end and it's tough not to warm to them, even if they are intentional stereotypes.
It's fully deserving of the attention and goodwill it has received. Objectively, it's not the best film in the world and there are parts that sag and moments where you wonder when it's going to get good. But it does and it's worth the wait.