I’ve had a copy of this film sat around for months waiting to find the perfect time to watch it. I was contemplating doing it for Halloween but, last week, the Japanese zombie movie got a limited release in America. So, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a watch. Plus, I didn’t really have time to watch anything new last weekend, so it was an easy fix. And it means I can get a more diverse range of films into my life in 2019. It’s not like I mean to ignore foreign films. I live in Yorkshire and, according to the people who matter, we Northerners don’t appreciate subtitles. I was listening to a podcast recently that tried to shame anyone who had watched Roma on Netflix and not during its limited cinema release. These were, obviously, people who live in London and have an easier time of seeing foreign-language and indie film releases in the cinema. I mean National Theatre Live has barely just made it up here. I know it’s on me to catch-up once films are released but there is still a point to be made about the release of foreign-language films. But not one that really matters right now. I’ll rant about it later.
I’ve said it before, but I’m really over the whole zombie thing. I guess I’ve just never really cared about zombie films and, let’s be honest, once you’ve seen one it doesn’t really change much. Okay, yes they vary wildly in quality but, in terms of story, it’s all very much the same thing. But you still get films that claim they have reinvented the genre. Films that come along with a story they believe has revolutionised zombies for cinema-goers. And I never normally care but One Cut of the Dead seemed different. A low-budget Japanese comedy-horror film that had done way better than anyone ever expected. Plus, when someone like Edgar Wright recommends a film, and let’s not forget he’s a man who knows his funny zombie films, it’s probably a good idea to take notice.
One Shot of the Dead takes place in an old industrial complex in the middle of nowhere. Director Takayuki Higurashi is trying to get the best performance out of the lead actors in his new zombie film. He’s the kind of passionate director who doesn’t think twice about shouting at his young female star and telling her she is fake. He doesn’t want fake, he wants truth. Which is why he secretly takes part in a blood ceremony to raise the dead. Now, instead of watching actors pretend to fight zombies, he can shoot the real thing. Telling the cameraman to not stop filming, the action follows the cast and crew as they try and survive.
One Shot of the Dead is a seemingly quaint and fun B movie. It has the look and feel of a low-budget horror film that has been shot in the woods by a group of friends. We have the same awkward pauses, confusion, and shaky cam. It’s not dreadful but it’s hardly the breathtaking originality we’d been promised. But then One Shot of the Dead turns itself on its head. I don’t really want to give too much away but don’t be put off by the first half-hour or so. It quickly becomes clear that this really isn’t an ordinary zombie movie. Proving that it is way more intelligent and witty than the first part would have you believe. The film ends up saying an awful lot about filmmaking and the film industry as a whole.
One Shot of the Dead is such an enjoyable film. Lulling into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from underneath you. There are parts of this film that are a bit of a slow burn but, by the end, everything pays off wonderfully. Something that you will have dismissed during the slower middle section will suddenly become part of the set-up to a great gag. The term “breathes new life” is used way too often in film criticism but One Shot of the Dead really does bring something new to the idea of a zombie film. And, most importantly, it has brilliant energy and sense of joy. I can’t imagine anyone coming out of this not loving films and the people who make them a little bit more than they did before.