One Cut of the Dead Woos Critics
by R.C. Murphy
It is super rare for critics to agree on anything. It is absolutely unheard of for every critic I’ve seen thus far to gush over a foreign-made zombie/comedy flick with a ton of found-footage style camerawork tacked onto the beginning.
What is this miracle film bringing the masses together despite the chaos in the world?
One Cut of the Dead is a 2017 Japanese zombedy from writer/director/editor Shinichiro Ueda. Somehow the film lurked under everyone’s noses until it started the film festival circuit. Since then, it’s everywhere. Folks who generally snub the genre can’t stop praising the fun they had during their screening. Honestly, it feels somewhat like a dream the last few months as more and more information drops about OCotD. This can’t be real. The masses do not just rave about a low budget zombie film on this level. There has to be a catch, right? Not one that I can find. Currently the film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb users give it 8/10 stars, and the Google users rating is 91%. It’s not just critics hyping the piece anymore. Everyone’s onboard to ride the fun train to zombie slaughter town.
The key here is that the movie hooks viewers from the beginning. Opening with a single-take scene, it drops right into the middle of a harried director’s attempt to make a low budget zombie film. There’s problems everywhere, including a leading lady who can’t manage a single decent take of one particular scene. Bad acting quickly drops to their least important problem as real zombies invade the set and they’re forced to fight them off. Yes, this sounds impossible to produce as an uncut scene, yet there it is. If the footage from the trailer is any indication, the camerawork and editing during this opening sequence is some of the best from the genre in years.
Possible spoilers below!
What keeps viewers engaged is when Udea flips the plot on its head, taking the timeline back to show how the film crew got to that impressive zombie sequence. It’s a solid look at how filmmaking can be a comedy of errors at every turn, yet still provide a way for a person to reach above their station in the world to create something life-altering. Some critics call the non-zombie sections charming and heartwarming, again proving that this film is breaking all the rules of the genre.
Unfortunately, there’s no US distributor yet, so the only way to catch One Cut of the Dead is via a film festival. I highly doubt it’ll go long without landing on a streaming platform, though. We’ll totally be back with that news when it drops.
Zombie Reviews . . . What We Become
By A. Zombie
Rated: Not Rated (contains intense gore, adult language, and violence)
Starring: Benjamin Engell, Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Ella Solgaard, and Marie Hammer Boda
Dino and Pernille Johansson live with their small family in an idyllic town, Sorgenfri, where it’s so peaceful, the teens are bored to death by the end of summer vacation. That doesn’t last long. Shortly after the new girl, Sonja, moves in across the street, things start to get weird in Denmark. The news features public service announcements on proper hygiene in hopes of staving off a virus sweeping the countryside. It doesn’t work. Sorgenfri is quarantined. The Johansson family are trapped inside, stealing glimpses through the black tarps covering their home as the military takes over once-quiet streets. One by one, the townsfolk are removed from their homes and carted off in semi-trucks. Others are forcibly stopped by the military. Gustav, the Johansson’s son, gets curious and breaks out of the house to snoop on the armed men, and perhaps check in with Sonja as well. Of course, he makes matters worse.
Let’s be frank, this film isn’t anything we haven’t seen on-screen before. I’ve seen versions of similar trapped-house horror plots for decades. What We Become takes the zombie genre back to its simplistic roots in an era where we’ve been given blockbuster after blockbuster, and even the TV shows are approached like they’re feature films cut into chunks to air each week. What you see is what you get with this film. There’s one main location. A tiny cast. Most of the action is through stolen glimpses outside, the news, or during one of the few seriously ill-thought outings to confront what’s really going on in Sorgenfri. It’s NotLD in Danish. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a predictable thing, which will be what keeps genre fans from calling this film one of their top-whatever. Simple films can be well done, though. This is a perfect example.
Because most of the tension is based on how the family interacts and reacts to an unknown threat, the zombies are saved for the final act in the film. We’re given a quick look at the undead chaos at one point, but the full-frontal shambling dead came in the last fifteen minutes or so. From that point on, it’s all snarls and gnashing teeth. The makeup takes a soft approach to the newly turned zombies. Some hero zombies are pretty gruesome; one of the first we see clearly is pretty torn up. To go from the restrained first acts in the film where the zombie action was off-screen to the undead taking over the town in minutes is jarring, tampered by the makeup on the newly turned, especially those who turn inside the house. They almost look like vampires up until the feeding begins.
The final zombie action is undercut perfectly with one last bout of family drama. What happens when one of their own is ready to turn? It’s a wonderful final moment for the actors. This cast is pretty solid and did what they could with the script. Unfortunately, that script leads most characters down a path which ends with several attempts to fix their circumstances by attempting to leave the quarantine area or interact with the military on their turf. It goes about as well as you’re thinking.
What We Become is a pretty solid toe-dip into zombie storytelling. Yes, it has predictable parts. However, the cast saves the film from being tiresome. Come for the high-tension acting, stay for the comfortable feeling of watching just another zombie movie. Sometimes we all need to unwind and watch cannibalistic monsters terrorize a family, along with a few select neighbors. I’m giving this film three and a half severed arms out of five.