Odd it may be to showcase a rejection of editing for the sake of light innovation, One Cut of the Dead presents its only real draw in the title. For forty-five minutes, there is not one cut in the camera. That is the main draw, and had it not been for this, then director Shinichiro Ueda would have a relatively lukewarm film on his hands. Incredible to think that a relatively standard script can be morphed and evolved into something slightly better when you have an unrelenting cameraman and a director who believes he can push through the zombie genre with a breath of fresh air.
One Cut of the Dead, for all its bells and whistles, is something audiences will have seen before. Zombies are not a new staple to genre movies, nor is the breakdown of character relations and the absence of teamwork. Their manic panic and paranoia are shown nicely, the first half of the film relying on moments of terror from a band of actors and the hack director that has assembled them in a zombie-infested warehouse. Nobody stands out as particularly brilliant, but together they form the base of a themeless film that inspires bouts of drama, in-fighting, and humorous misunderstandings.
That is all Ueda can hope to offer, the major twist of his film shatters the implication that these characters are in any danger. He draws upon fear and horror well enough, but when it turns into a jab at the state of low-budget television movies, One Cut of the Dead begins to fall apart. Impressive it may be to see the fictional behind-the-scenes moments, what it adds to the first half is the inability to ever look back on it as some smart and innovative horror. Even then, it is not close to innovation, tracking characters with a lack of cuts is a problematic staple that is on the rise once more, One Cut of the Dead simply used it as a narrative crutch, rather than an underwhelming grasp at awards, which seems to be the trend now.
Creatively engaging, more than enough to drag an audience the whole way through, One Cut of the Dead is a thematically fumbled piece that at least has a few moments of inspiration and a twist that works well enough. An enjoyable time, the film doesn’t feel all that taxing or engrossing, but it is a nice enough piece of entertainment that goes out of its way to poke around with somewhat new ideas. Whether they work or not really depends on how much an individual enjoys one cut shtick, but this is the closest a film has come to making it feel like an integral and useful part of the narrative, rather than a toy for awards season glory.