Monday With Mildred: “One Cut of the Dead”

Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!

This is a Zombie World Tour post!

One Cut of the Dead movie poster

One Cut of the Dead

The first 37 minutes of the film is one cut, hence the title of the film. A cut, on the off chance you don’t know, is when the camera stops rolling as a part of a scene is completed. An editor will later put together a lot of cuts to create scenes that make a movie. So 37 minutes of action without the camera stopping once is a heck of a feat. The actors can’t flub a line, the sound can’t accidentally have someone sneezing or a plane going overhead, the camera person can’t trip or otherwise goof up (which ended up being one of the funniest moments of the movie, I thought – more on that later), the special effects have to go off without a hitch and the people behind the scenes can’t accidentally wander into the shot. A lot can go wrong, but everything is perfect here.  Or so we think.

In a long deserted industrial building full large old machines, stairs, large old windows and rusty iron doors, a small crew is making a cheezy zombie movie. As seems to be the norm in Japan, the zombie is extremely slow, his arms outstretched like a childish caricature of how a zombie moves. He is stalking a crying young woman who seems to think telling the zombie she loves him will somehow stop his relentless advance. Once he begins an intimate gnawing of her neck the director screams for a cut and berates the young woman for being a terrible actress, slaps around the zombie actor and storms away. He wants “Real fear!” We follow the crew for the next half hour as they fall victim one by one.

There is a lot of action for such a long take, with zombie bashing, running and screaming, severed limbs flying, big changes in makeup, and lots of camera movement. It’s an entire movie and it’s really impressive until you begin to notice how stiff some of the acting is, and how off the wall even for a zombie film some of the dialogue is. It also begins to feel really, really real in a couple of spots.

There’s a subtle nod to George Romero’s Diary of the Dead in which student filmmaker Creed insists on filming the true story of the zombie apocalypse, even when doing so is a heartless exercise that separates him from all his friends. In One Cut, the director screams at one point, “No fiction! No lies!” There is a not so subtle nod to the Evil Dead films with a camera that seems to have a mind of its own at times. I especially loved the part where a hand reaches around to wipe errant drops of blood off the lens as the cameraman is running to keep up with the action. Not long after I finished laughing about that, the cameraman falls to the ground during an action scene and lies there unmoving in the grass for long moments after the actors disappear from the screen, like a moment from The Evil Dead, it leaps off the ground and resumes following the actors as they run. It’s rare to laugh at camera work, but I sure did.

There’s a wrench at the end of the 37 minutes, and the rest of the film gets deeper and more involved in the plot and somehow gets even funnier. This is one of the funniest zombie films I’ve ever seen, a meta tour de force. The acting, as it turns out, isn’t stiff. That’s a part of the plot and works wonderfully. The action is zany, the set is great, and the story is super smart. The standard zombie movie roles of final girl, apocalypse denier, heroic fighter, and Harry Cooper are replaced by standard movie actor roles of  serious pretty boy, over represented actress and hypochondriac extra as the second part of the movie begins. It was hard to change gears from the zombie flick to a movie-making-by-committee film, but well worth the effort as the director is hired because of his advertised expertise in making “fast, cheap and average” films.

If you’re in the mood for a comedy and don’t mind some badly done zombie gore (there’s a reason for that), I highly recommend seeing this movie. It starts off mindless and dorky, but before long you’re in deep with a smart and fun film that will test your mind a bit, in a good way.

LINKS: 

One Cut of the Dead – Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Exclusive

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