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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Japan Film Festival 2018: One Cut of the Dead Review

by Jonathan Bilski

If you went off 1st Street and around the corner, past two museums and stopped before going to a third you'd end up at the Japan Film Festival. Almost hidden, this year's festival was housed in a small theater for the LA section, the Tateuchi Democracy Forum. And in it was a film that has started off small in Japan, playing in one art house theater, but expanding for a second run and racking in millions at home and abroad on a budget of only $27,000. It's a comedy called One Cut of the Dead.

After waiting in line and buying some zombie cookies to feast on like the zombies that would be eating brains and people in the film we were about to see, we slowly made it in to the sold out show. 

Whomever was hosting seemed a little shy, because we never got her name. The facts she was going to tell us about the movie in fact became one fact that once scene went on for 37 minutes straight. That's where we get the title, One Cut of the Dead.

We're happy the Japan Film Festival could bring the comedy over to the US for this special screening. Though sold as horror it's really a comedy. The bizarre marketing of comparing it to Shaun of the Dead is misplaced and one shouldn't consider it on the same level. It's its own movie and can be a slow burn that's worth the wait after the first 37 minutes.

A film crew is shooting a zombie film in what looks like an abandoned factory supposedly used by Japan during WWII for experiments, it's out of cell phone range and people to call for help. What starts off looking like a bad made-for-TV-movie becomes a nightmare for the small crew and stars in it stuck in the middle of nowhere. And it's perfect for the director who may have caused it all to happen. Just like a dirt cheap budget horror movie you might make fun of from the 80's or 90's we have a jokingly funny new zombie film with bad acting, strange plot twists and terrible logic to laugh at while the blood flows from a zombie attack.

Throughout it will have a maniac director and a small, but lovable cast that will be taken apart.


Now that's the first 37 minutes and it's exactly as I wrote it, so-bad-it's-good horror. A staple of things we like to watch with friends here at TTDILA. However, it turns out what we just watched gets a whole lot more meta than that. Because we're three films within a film deep as what we just watched was a small budget live-action horror film for a new zombie channel in Japan. Yes, we go back to see the zombie film within a "real" zombie film is really a comedy about making the zombie film.

Director Higurashi, not the real director of the film, but the actor playing the director of the zombie film, played by Takayuki Hamatsu is known for getting any film work done, on budget and looking of average quality, because of these features he's given the film "One Cut of the Dead". Soon we meet the cast and crew through table reads and planning for the film. At the same time the director's daughter is trying to become a director herself, but isn't doing a very good job.

We get to the live tapping day of the film within in a film and it's strife with problems. We go back and see why things go wrong during the 37 minute one-cut film and how Higurashi and his daughter fix them. Not to mention that director's wife, a former actress, who lands a major role in the film as some of the cast can't make it in time for the taping. What follows is a wonderful look back at every problem that B-List horror movie made and why it happened. It's a great to see as to why everything went so bad, but the film comes out so good.

We were laughing in the audience as we learned how every messed-up moment had some sort of problem behind the scenes from alcoholism, a bad back, diarrhea, over-acting and more. A lot of it came together through team work and a plucky young daughter helping her Dad. This is a great film for both horror fans and people who work in film. And it even works as a little touching family comedy.

One Cut of the Dead will be cutting you up, like being tickled by zombies you know are just in make-up.

Really had a great time with some of the dialogue between the "cast and crew" and little in-jokes like yelling, "Pom!" when breaking out of someone grabbing you. You"ll be yelling "Pom!" too after seeing the movie or texting it to your friends as a code word to get out of something.