Review: One Cut Of The Dead (NYAFF 2018)

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

One Cut Of The Dead is a movie about a movie; it concerns a zombie flick in which… and stop me if you’ve heard this before… the actors playing zombies end up becoming the real thing! Though the actual gimmick here is how the behind the scenes action is entirely shot in a single take. As one might expect with such a tall order, the edges are a bit rough; when something clearly does’t go as planned, and with no chance for a do over, the action will screech to a half as the actors stand there awkwardly with the wheels clearly turning in their eyes. But eventually they figure something out on the spot and the production marches forward, with the end result is a decent little film. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes there are cuts, but they’re exceptionally well hidden.

Actually, One Cut Of The Dead is a movie about a movie about a movie. Higurashi is the warm & friendly journeyman filmmaker (his motto is “fast, cheap, but average”) that’s hired by a new horror channel to direct their debut program, which is… you guessed it… One Cut Of The Dead, a film (okay, technically a 30 minute long television program) about a zombie flick going off the rails. At first he laughs at the idea of helming a one take, live broadcast, but soon comes the realization that it’s a chance at making a mark. Thus the trials & tribulations of pre-production begin; we’re introduced to the assembled actors and crew members, who are all colorful of course, along with his family (the wife is a retired actress and their daughter a production assistant who, unlike dad, tries a little too hard to make ART). Yup, it’s a contemporary, Japanese retelling of Living in Oblivion alright, but instead of a no-budget indie movie it’s instead some Roku channel’s premier.

Naturally, the moment of truth looks to be a disaster when those set to portray the on-screen director and the make-up artist are both sidelined. requiring Higurashi along his wife (who had retired from acting, btw, cuz she got way too into her roles) to fill in. So we get to see the behind the scenes of the behind the scenes. Wacky character traits established during rehearsals or just screw ups on the set become the reasons for aforementioned on-screen talent acting like deer caught in headlines, and the process of discovery is fun. I really don’t want to say more; One Cut Of The Dead is all about the execution, which isn’t anything brilliant, but overflowing with charm. Those with an affinity for the filmmaking process will no doubt get the biggest kick (as well as the most likely to notice that the entire thing has television-like production values, in particular the royalty free-esque soundtrack), but I can’t but help recommend it to everyone. It’s, by far, the biggest, most pleasant surprise of NYAFF thus far! Check it out on Friday, July 13, 2018 10:20PM at the SVA Theatre.

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