Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 13 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out Korean zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead. Let’s get to it:
Day 13 of 31: One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Director: Shin’ichiro Ueda
Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama
IMDb Trivia: The first 37 minutes was actually shot in one take. It took two days and six takes for the cast and crew to get the perfect one.
Plot: Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility when they are attacked by real zombies.
Review: If Train to Busan is the best zombie action movie out of South Korean cinema (so far) then One Cut of the Dead deserves just as much praise as one of the best horror comedies from the Land of the Morning Calm!
Seriously, I laughed so hard my sides were hurting as this hidden gem caught me completely off guard with its meta take on art imitating life and the pressures and difficulties of making a film. Wasting no time, we open with a scene of a young beautiful woman named Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) who is fending off a zombie that eventually takes a bite out of her while she delivers an emotion lacking “I love you”. Turns out none of this is real and this small crew is trying to shoot a zombie movie called One Cut of the Dead. Director Higurashi is frustrated with her poor acting and loses his cool, forcing everyone to take a break.
As the cast shoots the breeze and tries to relax, makeup assistant Nao (Harumi Shuhama) tells them the story of the location they’re shooting in which is an old WWII bunker that legend has it was used for secret experiments to raise the dead. Turns out the legends were true, and due to some crazy blood spell enacted by Director H the dead return and starts attacking the crew to which said director gleefully shouts “ACTION!” as he finally has the emotion he needs from his lead actress.
This first act was shot in one long take which isn’t just ballsy, it’s downright insane! I have never seen a “found footage” movie with this much adrenaline pumping through its veins as we never lose sight of our protagonists in their fight for survival. The choice to have a handheld camera follow them without pause was genius. I was exhausted watching them run from place to place trying to fight off the undead. You’ll actually forget the fact that it’s only a few zombies (no more than three or four) and instead this energetic way of handling the material completely immerses you the viewer to the point where you’ll never again question how someone could get caught by a Romero-styled zombie (you try running the length of a factory over and over again and up and down stairs and see how long you could last for).
The comedy is also extremely effective, especially from actor Takayuki Hamatsu as Director Higurashi. He takes the concept of a director obsessed with making the perfect movie to ridiculous lengths and I couldn’t help but crack up every time he yelled “ACTION!” This man is a nutter, the kind of character you would normally want to see killed off aggressively and yet somehow he takes the concept of the unlikable a-hole and makes him one of the best aspects of the story, especially when we spend time with him before the insanity of making a movie takes over.
OCOTD was filmed on a micro-budget of 3 million Yen ($25,000 USD) so if you’re going into this expecting Train to Busan you’ll be very disappointed. The cast are all unknowns (or at least they were), the film utilises a handful of simple locations and the second and third act focuses heavily on the background aspects of making the movie while the entire first act is the “movie” instead. It’s strange that way and this style did catch me off guard.
You could actually watch the first act and then turn the movie off and you would still have a great horror comedy on your hands. But with a runtime of only one hour and thirty-five minutes it’s easy enough to watch the entire film. Depending on your tastes, this second and third act will either work for you or it won’t; it took me some time to settle into it but as the story continued it became a very interesting look behind the curtain of what it takes to make these micro-budget movies.
OCOTD has received universal acclaim from critics and has gone on to make its budget a thousand times over. And yet I know if I wasn’t actively looking around for great horror movies I missed I would’ve never seen this. So check it out for yourself and if you enjoy it as much as I did pass on the good news and who knows? In a few years we just might have a cult classic on our hands.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
So what’s your favourite zombie comedy? You can check out Part 12 of my 31 Days List supernatural horror Terrified below, along with my review of Train to Busan and a ranking of all the the best films if you love Zombieland:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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