Updated: Oct 15
Although I’ve heard praise for One Cut of the Dead since its release in 2017, I only recently saw it as part of "The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs." I went in completely blind, which I think is a good way of viewing a movie like this. If I’d been expecting a straightforward zombie film, I might’ve been a little disappointed, albeit impressed. However, I was told to simply go along for the ride and experience the film moment-to-moment, which I suppose is a great way to experience most movies.
I can’t stress enough how much One Cut of the Dead blew my mind. The story is very simple: a struggling director tries to shoot an entire zombie film all in one cut, and it's being broadcast live on television. However, prima donna actors and an ever-blundering crew makes the task nearly impossible, and the entire team must rely on their moment-to-moment ingenuity in order to complete their task.
Every conflict within the movie rings true for anyone who’s been on a professional film set. You see all the major personality types: the pretentious actors, the backseat directors, the producer who’s constantly giving script notes, as well as the small-time crew member with all the great ideas. In fact, I would say the movie rings true for anyone who’s worked on any group project, and the entire movie is carried by the tension of "will they or won’t they succeed?”"
Just like in any creative endeavor, not even the most meticulous and well-drawn plans are enough to avoid troubles along the way. Actors fail to show up, crew members get sick, props are destroyed, special effects fail, dialogue is butchered, and the constant need for improvisation keeps everyone on their toes.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sweating a bit on the characters’ behalves, especially the director who’s risking everything in his life for a creative endeavor that promises few rewards. That’s what made this movie so special—the audience feels involved in the struggle, and we’re constantly rooting for the film crew to succeed come hell or high water.
If you haven’t seen One Cut of the Dead yet, I strongly recommend checking it out. Even if you’re not an aspiring filmmaker or someone who considers themselves creative, I’m sure you’ll feel invested in the movie by the end of Act One. This is a movie made for anyone with an impossible dream, and unlike some of the more cynical movies out there, it shows that putting your blood, sweat, and tears into a project is the true reward.
This week, I'm doing seven straight days of zombie movie reviews as a part of my 31 Days of Horror Reviews series. Do you have a favorite zombie movie? Tell me in the comments and I’ll add it to the roster.
You can also read Sean Ellis' take on One Cut of the Dead here.