Fantasia 2018 Review: One Cut of the Dead

Takayuki Hamatsu (centre) plays a film director in the Japanese zombie comedy film One Cut of the Dead. (THIRD WINDOW FILMS)

A low-budget zombie film is being shot at an abandoned water treatment plant. (At an isolated location, of course. No cellphone service.) There are murky rumours about the building’s past – secret government experiments on humans, maybe even dead humans, that kind of thing.

The director (Takayuki Hamatsu) is excitable and demanding. Some crew members say he’s a psycho, though not to his face. The young female lead (Yuzuki Akiyama) is so screechy. Quite annoying. Someone notices that an axe is real and quite sharp, too. Hmmm. That seems dangerous. I think of Chekhov’s axiom about a gun.

Suddenly, during a break in filming, a severed arm is thrown into the room. Ha, ha! Just a joke? Crew members fooling around? It looks VERY real. And where did everybody else disappear to? Oh, oh!

It’s difficult to write much about One Cut of the Dead without spoiling the whole thing. Have I already written too much? There are reviews floating around that spoil many of the surprises and as time goes on there will be more still.


On the film One Cut of the Dead, Harumi Shuhama plays Nao, a makeup woman who can also swing a mean axe. (THIRD WINDOW FILMS)

I’ll just say that this film is divided into three parts, with the third part being fall-off-your-chair funny. There are pokes at actors, fussy, passive-aggressive co-workers (“I SENT you an email!”), plot holes, zombie tropes, etc. One Cut of the Dead is also a fond tribute to family, team work, creativity, inventiveness, filmmaking in general, low-budget filmmaking in particular, the spirit of “the show must go on,” and much, much more. Well worth seeking out.

It was a treat to watch One Cut of the Dead with the famously enthusiastic Fantasia audience. There were lots of laughs and cheers. Actress Harumi Shuhama was among the crowd favourites, and many of those cheers were for her. Her character, makeup lady Nao, has so many (previously unknown) useful talents.

97 minutes long
In Japanese with English subtitles
Written, directed and edited by Shinichiro Ueda
Cast: Harumi Shuhama, Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Manabu Hosoi

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