Oct 29, 2019
NARRATOR: “Welcome back to Reign of Terror 2019! 31 straight days of horror movie reviews and interviews. Today’s episode will feature Andrew Campbell, who will be reviewing 2017’s ‘One Cut of the Dead’, recently re-distributed to the theaters.”
NARRATOR: *aside* “How the hell did he get back in?”
NARRATOR: “But for now, let’s turn out attention back to the fate of our host, in Part Three of “THE FINAL STRETCH”.”
SCENE: Abandoned cityscape.
NARRATOR: “No matter what I tried to do, the scenario did reset itself, and the zoom-bies were downgraded to shuffling walkers, which Joseph was having far too much fun with on his way to the next checkpoint.”
JOSEPH: “You know, they don’t tell you just how much fun it would be to live in a zombie apocalypse. At least this part.”
NARRATOR: “The last thing anyone wanted was Joseph being happy, of course. And yet, there he was, smashing skulls with random objects, and kicking heads down the street. The zombies, whenever they got close, got got, which meant Joseph made spectacular time through the cityscape and into what appeared to be a movie set.”
NARRATOR: “It wasn’t a movie set, though. Not really. It was a mobile video creation suite used by designers and editors to film and record their own movies within the world. It just looked like a movie set, but one you could move to wherever you wanted into the world.”
ANDREW: “Pretty neat, eh?”
JOSEPH: “I’ll say. Are you an NPC?”
ANDREW: “Joseph, it’s me, Andrew! Besides, would I tell you the truth if I was?”
JOSEPH: “Good enough for me. What’s all this?”
NARRATOR: “And Andrew said the exact same thing I just said, not that anyone could hear me anymore.”
ANDREW: “So, I found this development area and have been seeing what it can do and not do."
JOSEPH: “Sounds interesting. Oh crap...”
NARRATOR: “Joseph noticed some zombie stragglers wandering onto the set. A green aura suddenly appeared around them.”
ANDREW: “See, when they come within range, I can select them and modify their behavior.”
NARRATOR: “Joseph watched as Andrew froze the zombies, then brought up a difficulty setting, behavior patterns, character stats, and all sorts of other information."
ANDREW: “This way, we can get all the characters we need, or...”
NARRATOR: “He flicked a finger, and the zombie disappeared from the set entirely.”
JOSEPH: “Almost like administrator controls.”
ANDREW: “Almost. We can affect the characters, but not all aspects of the environments. Most of them are templates based on classic movies. It’s all pretty amazing.”
JOSEPH: “How much time is left on your demo?”
ANDREW: “Oh, this mode doesn’t have a time limit.”
NARRATOR: “Oh crap.”
JOSEPH: “You don’t say.”
NARRATOR: “Crap. Crap. Crap.”
ANDREW: “Yeah, in fact, I have the rights to override any demo character’s time limit as necessary. Heck, I can even give you all the controls I have, if you want.”
JOSEPH: “Oh, I want. I very much want.”
ANDREW: “Okay. It will take a bit to load, and the changes won’t take effect until you reach the next zone, but let me just hit a few buttons, and...”
NARRATOR: “And suddenly, Joseph’s chances of survival increased dramatically, with every new button on his now very, very smart phone. Each icon said pending, but it gave him another sickening injection of hope.”
JOSEPH: “Well, this will be very helpful.”
ANDREW: “I imagine so. You want to see what’s been captured so far?”
NARRATOR: “Oh no.”
ANDREW: “The system has been capturing your progress as you moved through the simulation.”
NARRATOR: “The two began reviewing the footage, showing Joseph’s progress along the way.”
JOSEPH: “This is fascinating. Can you get a message to One Movie Spouse?”
NARRATOR: “Don’t! Don’t tell them anything! But... but ripping out the narration function for everyone meant that the narrator couldn’t communicate with any of the characters anymore, unless he was directly present. And the narrator watched as Joseph detailed a series of plans for One Movie Spouse and the rest of the team, knowing that he was closer to victory than ever should have been possible.”
NARRATOR: “The narrator would only get one more chance, and he was going to make the most of it... tomorrow, in Part Four of “THE FINAL STRETCH”, where we’ll be joined by the VHS Strikes Back Podcast, who will be reviewing ’30 Days of Night’, and a horde of vampires make quick work of Joseph.”
Hello film fans!
Andrew here. I was not about to let the Reign of Terror end without talking about today’s film. For more than a year now, this movie has made the festival rounds, gotten the occasional one-off screening and then bootlegged onto a streaming service, before skipping VOD entirely and getting picked up by Shudder in September. Turns out, this film’s wild path to U.S. distribution is a perfect match for its roller coaster ride of a story.
Today’s film is “One Cut of the Dead” (2017), the Japanese horror comedy which made its Texas premiere at the 2018 Fantastic Fest. The plot of the film revolves around... well, hold up. Before we get into those details, let’s talk about its genre. As if the “of the dead” in the title didn’t give it away, the film is yet another zombie comedy (or zomcom if you can stomach the portmanteau) in a never-ending stream of them. I am still totally in love with the musical zomcom “Anna and the Apocalypse” (Episode #425) – or see the show notes for a link to the piece I wrote about the film for DailyGrindhouse.com and their month-long celebration of rock & roll and horror. This Summer even saw indie favorite Jim Jarmusch throw his hat in the ring with “The Dead Don’t Die” which sports a stellar ensemble cast... along with mixed to unfavorable reviews. Just two weeks ago, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o’s “Little Monsters” premiered on Hulu. And of course, a little picture called “Zombieland: Double Tap” is playing right now on a couple thousand screens. In a crowded marketplace, I’m happy to report that the originality of “One Cut of the Dead” stands out from the rest of the horde.
The film starts with a zombie shuffling towards... well, before we get into all that, let’s quickly delve into the hype surrounding “One Cut of the Dead”. When the term was first coined, a “cult film” typically referred to an obscure motion picture beloved to a small, devoted fan group long after its theatrical run. Typically, it was difficult or impossible to even locate a copy. Nowadays, nearly every film ever produced can be accessed in seconds through a streaming service or purchasable via video-on-demand - not to mention the illegal channels where I’m sure you could snag a shaky camcorder bootleg of “Joker” right now if you wanted to have a miserable Tuesday night.
“One Cut of the Dead” managed to achieve cult status in the US long before it was ever released to the masses. Made on a $25,000 microbudget, the film opened in Japan in June 2018, where it would gross a staggering $25 million – one thousand times its budget. Despite this success, Third Window Films, the very small global distributor, struggled to get the film released in the US until it showed up unannounced late last December on Amazon Prime via their Prime Video Direct program. This allows producers of low-budget films to get eyes on their work.
It was a Christmas miracle... until it wasn’t. Turns out, it was an unauthorized bootleg of the film, which lead to Amazon being taken to task for not vetting their content. Eventually, I caught the film in January at a special one-off screening at the Alamo Drafthouse hosted for “Top Brass” members – people who watch an embarrassing amount of films at their theaters. After popping up at the occasional event over the next six months, Shudder finally came to the rescue and unleashed the film in September.
Okay, so that zombie of the beginning of the film is about to chow down on a young lady when... well, that’s really all you need to know about the story.
Three pieces of advice: (1) Don’t watch the trailer; you’ll think I’m crazy and it won’t make you want to watch the film. (2) Do not read the Wikipedia entry, the plot synopsis, or any other reviews. We’ve been together a while now. You trust me, right? (3) Hang in there for the first 30 minutes of the film; it will be worth it.
What makes “One Cut of the Dead” fantastic? This is a zombie film told through one long, uninterrupted shot with no CGI that manages to completely turn itself on its head. It is incredibly clever and, like a great murder mystery, all the clues are there the whole time. I will say, I’ve seen this film twice with greatly diminished returns. It’s best viewed with a group of rowdy friends, so whip this one out at the end of your Halloween party to cap the night.
“One Cut of the Dead” (2017) is a magic trick of Japanese independent horror cinema with global appeal. Fans of all zombie films, whether straight horror, zomcom, romzom, or even Rob Zombie... should consider this a must-see.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
Metacritic: 85 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 8.8/10
“One Cut of the Dead” is not rated and is currently streaming on Shudder.
Alright, assuming Joseph can survive for two more days, I’ll be back on Friday as we return to your regularly scheduled programming. Fantastic Fest 2019 brought the heat and we have a ton of new films to discuss. See you then.