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Blu-ray review: “ONE CUT OF THE DEAD” is a no-budget zom-com symphony

Monday, February 4, 2019 | Blu-ray/DVD

By ALEX DELLER
Starring Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama and Kazuaki Nagaya
Written and directed by Shinichiro Ueda
Third Window Films

Reviewing a film that’s best seen stone-cold without presents no shortage of problems, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to conveying the rollicking charm of Japanese zero-budgeter ONE CUT OF THE DEAD.

This said, the debut feature from Shinichiro Ueda begins in unpromising fashion: foul-tempered director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) is shooting the kind of low-budget, SOV horror flick that many of us fell prey to back in the 90s (ZOMBIE NOSH, anyone?). He’s on the brink of an embolism and exasperated by his two young leads – tearful Aika (Yuzuki Akiyama) and the well-meaning if somewhat vacuous Kazuaki (Kazuaki Nagaya). Stropping off after the climactic scene’s umpteenth unsuccessful take, Higurashi  leaves his two blood-soaked stars with makeup artist Harumi (Harumi Shuhama), who explains the lengths to which their director has gone to find the film’s perfect location: a derelict water treatment facility that was, according to rumour, the site of some mysterious army experiments.

Needless to say the site’s history comes back to bite them and it’s soon a case of life (or death?) imitating art as the rag-tag cast and crew attempt to fend off some leering, green-faced ghouls, all while an increasingly maniacal Higurashi demands the cameras continue to roll. dmirable at least for being an unbroken 37-minute take, the film’s opening sequence nevertheless serves as a bit of a headscratcher given the excitement surrounding the film. After all, the low-threat zombies and minimal peril would have even the most hardened genre fan reaching clammily for the remote…

“Things are funnier, smarter and more artful than you ever imagined.”

It’s a credit to Shinichiro Ueda and his crew that ONE CUT OF THE DEAD manages to inject both life and individuality into the much-flogged corpse of zombie cinema, all with no budget and an unknown am-dram cast. Even more heartening is that the team’s strange film-making alchemy has translated into lead-to-gold box office success and the ability to win over fans from as far afield as London and LA on the global festival circuit.

The limited, slipcased blu-ray edition comes with a teetering tower of extras, including an interview with the director, outtakes, a making-of and Ueda’s TAKE 8 short film from 2015.

Alex Deller
Alex Deller writes about films and music. He doesn't get much sleep. Follow him on Twitter here: @dellerrr