Everyone loves a good underdog story. Even more so when it happens in some corner of the entertainment industry. For years, the horror genre has been able to hold itself as the corner littered with success stories. Though The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity seem dated by this point, a little Japanese film managed did just what they did, a couple years back. One Cut of the Dead has become “the little film that could” grossing over $30 mil in Japan alone, off a $32,000 budget.
After spending a long run at film festivals around the globe, Shudder picked up One Cut of the Dead’s streaming rights in the US. More importantly, for those collectors out there, the company had put out a wonderful blu-ray/dvd combo steelbook to delight fans and new converts. More than any other horror film in recent memory, One Cut of the Dead is a film that belongs in every fan’s library. Hyperbole aside, there’s a special joy in getting to own a physical copy of a film that debuts on VOD these days. In an age where physical media becomes an afterthought, it’s a nice touch to see.
One Cut of the Dead is, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining horror films in a long time. It deftly combines elements that seem worn out (zombies, extended “one cut” shots) and turns it into something engaging. What’s more, it produces a genre flick that has just as much heart, as it does true and gore.
A film crew out in the middle of nowhere slaves to make a novel zombie movie, in one long shot. No cuts. No interruptions. And absolutely no room for failure. As tensions rise, stars bicker and the director loses his mind, a far more sinister force is at work. Turns out, the location scouting was a little too good and there may be a dark hidden secret in these walls. One with the power to resurrect the undead.
As cheesy as the basic plot to One Cut of the Dead is, only lays the groundwork for half the movie. A twist occurs about a third into the film, going places no one could imagine. While it’s hard to discuss the film as a whole, without spoiling what happens, that ok. The film practically sells itself. So much so, that once you finish your initial viewing, there’s the desire to rewatch it instantly, dragging a few new friends in, too.
Largely the success here is due to the composure and focus of director/writer Shin’ichirô Ueda. This is the kind of film that could have easily jumped the shark and over committed to a bit, to the point of exhausting. Instead the characters grow in develop in unexpected ways. Mundane elements in the first half, become sidesplitting moments of comic genius in the latter portion. For as difficult a technical undertaking as this likely way, it unfolds at an effortless clip. One Cut of the Dead is exactly the kind of film genre fans spend most of lives not knowing they deeply need. Now that it’s here, it’s destined to become a cult classic.
One Cut Of The Dead is presented in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. the image is clean and entirely representative of its theatrical presentation. There’s a bit of noise on the screen, probably inherent with how the feature was shot. Colors pop nicely, regardless of the lo-fi aspect to it all. At least when it’s in sections where inherent noise is expected. The thing about One Cut of the Dead, is how it transitions between different video formats, depending on what part of the movie its in. So when quality shifts it’s an aesthetic choice, not a problem in the transfer.
There aren’t really any banding or issues with the picture quality overall. Those who might want crazy colors jumping at them, this isn’t your title. Colors do have a nice fidelity to them. Reds have decent pop, without being too overwhelming. Greens and brows come out strong as well. It looks exactly as it should, nothing more. If you are searching for reference level picture, this isn’t it. Keeping your expectations in check is key.
As with previous Shudder/RLJE Films releases, there’s both an English and original Japanese language tracks. It’s better to go with the Japanese, as the dumb is, well, rather lacking. English subtitles are also available here and skirt the line, as usual, between the dub and original language. French and Spanish subs are also on hand. Whichever you choose comes across in Dolby Digital 2.0. Again, since this was a low budget film, it fits and still feels great.
Special Features: 7/10
Compared to the Tiger Are Not Afraid Steelbook put out by Shudder, One Cut of the Dead seems more paired back. What’s here though is still captivating, even if it won’t walk off with awards.
As far as steelbooks go, this one wins, due to its insert and coloring. Yellow isn’t normally the color of a Blu-ray case. Shameless had a series of yellow cases they put out as a part of a collection, but wasn’t a regular thing. So, getting a case like this, that’s yellow. Well, that feels special in its own right. Inside the case are little zombie hands and blood. Simple, but effective. Sure to help this case stand out on any and all bookcases.
POM! Instructional Video –
If there absolutely had to be one special feature included in the release, this would be it. Anyone who has seen the film, instinctively shouted out that first word, upon reading it. This is the same self defense video as seen in the film. It may run rather short, but it will delight any and all fans.
Outtakes (mild spoilers) –
In which hat may be one of the more curiously labeled sections on a blu-ray, in recent memory. While it says “outtakes” this is more so a series of deleted segments, taken from the 2nd half of the film. A couple of them are fun, deepening character development or adding a joke here or there. As tight and compact as the overall film it, it’s easy to see how these would have slowed things up. Only the very very last bit feels like it could be an actual outtake. For what it’s worth.
Go Pro Version Of One Cut Of The Dead–
The disc may be missing a standard making of, but that doesn’t matter. Having the “Go Pro’ version of the film covers the same ground, kinda. True to the name, this is all Go Pro footage of a crew member, capturing the “one shot” aspect of the film. It’s an intriguing fly-on-the-wall view, that really allows viewers to appreciate how the film was made. Every beat is timed and choreographed with precision. This vantage point easily and artfully shows how everything pieces together. At 38 minutes long, some with short patience may think it overkill. Yet, having this unfettered access to how everything was laid out, is utterly fascinating.
By itself, One Cut of the Dead is one of the best audience pleasing horror films, in sometime. It’s also a film made for people who love movies and the making of movies. A whole bunch of care is injected into the feature and you can feel it every step of the way. Maybe it’s because studio films are often assembled cynically. Maybe it’s because mainstream films often feel like they’re repeating themselves over and over and over. Whatever the reason it all comes off as fresh and inviting. With a giant beating heart, at the center.
The home video release of the One Cut of the Dead belongs in any physical collector’s set. Though it may not be packed with special features or behind the scenes content, what is here, is fun enough. Just having a physical release of this, is a win in and of itself. This won’t win any “best of” releases this year, but it’s hard not to look at the bright yellow steelbook case and not smile.