One Cut of the Dead – a Shudder exclusive as of time of this writing – is what we like to call “horror-adjacent”. The zombie thing, plus its home on Shudder, puts it in the crosshairs of horror viewers but, ultimately, this is not a horror movie. It’s not even comedy-horror on the Shaun of the Dead scale. It’s a comedy, and a movie about movie making. But it’s also so much more than that, and recommended viewing for both horror fans and movie fans in general.
Words can’t properly explain the central conceit, and to attempt to explain it would only take away from the joy of discovering just what kind of movie you’re actually watching. The best I can do is describe the first 40 or so minutes, which play out thusly:
We open cold in the midst of a slightly cheesy Japanese zombie movie. Before long, an aggressive, frustrated director steps into frame and chastises the two actors for their lacking performances, and calls for another take. We’re behind the scenes of the making of the movie, and you notice after several minutes that the real-world camera isn’t cutting. As filming continues, strange things start happening, and the actors and crew appear to be set upon by actual zombies. While everybody else panics and/or dies, the insane director sees an opportunity to finally get the authentic performances he’s been looking for.
This story goes on in the form of one continuous take for approximately 35 minutes, and then the credits roll. And that’s as much as I can tell you about the plot.
The final two acts are like a Russian nesting doll of a movie. Seemingly random details from the beginning – details that, to a Westerner, seem like nothing more than Japanese idiosyncrasy – have unexpected explanations. Chaos slowly turns to order right before your eyes.
I apologize for being so vague. I’m not trying to be a tease. But the movie simply wouldn’t work half as well if you are a step ahead of it. It’s not horror, but it has zombies and classic B-movie gore, which is somewhat besides the point. This movie is a puzzle that is a delight to solve. Then you’ll want to watch it again so you can take notice of its pieces.