One Cut Of The Dead

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

One Cut Of The Dead
"A film that understands its audience exceptionally well."

The first thing one notices about One Cut Of The Dead is how well it has managed to keep its secret. Given the volume of online talk about it and the international excitement aroused by the trailer, this can only lead to one conclusion: that viewers were sufficiently impressed by it to want to preserve the thrill for others more than they wanted to spill the beans. in today's world, this is a rare thing - but then, this is a film that understands its audience exceptionally well.

It light of this, it behoves critics to avoid spoilers, which severely limits what can be said in a review. Suffice to say that it's a film with a lot more going on than is immediately apparent, which you'll do well to remember if you find yourself irritated by the first half hour with all its cheesy genre cliches, its clumsy direction and its particularly shrill heroine. This is positioned as a film within a film so doesn't reflect much on the talents of Shin'ichirĂ´ Ueda, but throughout the director makes clear that he's more interested in telling a story than in showing off his skills and ultimately this is an approach that really pays off.

Even at this early stage, there are shocking moments, though these are blackly comedic rather than straight out nasty. Despite heavy helpings of gore, the bright red blood and ridiculous make-up keep it firmly in playful territory. It's not all lightweight Apocalyptic terror, however, as there's clear comment on the atrocious ways that some directors treat their stars, with and without consent.

Such is the crudeness of the early scenes than when the first signs appear that something in't quite right, it's easy to dismiss them as part of the parody. Indeed, the film is concerned throughout with questions about what is real. The heroine is constantly badgered by the director who wants her to give a real performance, to show real fear, though he's comically unable to instil this just by going through the shouting and flapping routine that numerous men bizarrely think makes them look powerful rather than infantile. As the story develops, one is reminded of some of the bizarre conversations that have been held in the corridors of power about supposed snuff films so cheaply faked that a child could see through them. And playful though this film is, it's a pertinent reminder of just how easy it is to be fooled by what we see.

Fast-paced, highly energetic and possessed of a keen sense of humour, this is an entertaining piece of work which mingles cautionary tales with a celebration of the creative process. It's joyously anarchic and will delight genre fans.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2019
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