Of the four zombedies released this year — also including The Dead Don’t Die, Little Monsters, and Zombieland: Double Tap — it’s the Japanese import One Cut of the Dead that breathes new life into the genre of the living dead. A massive success in its home country, the film earned small notice and acclaim stateside, but it deserves so much more.
The set-up is deceptively simple: An independent film crew are shooting a zombie movie at a remote location when they’re set upon by real zombies. To say more would be to ruin the story’s many great surprises (especially since part of the fun comes from figuring them out yourself), but the end result is ingenuous, hilarious, and surprisingly moving. It also contains a jaw-dropping 37-minute single take that actually serves a purpose to the greater story (eat your heart out — or rather, eat your brains out — Sam Mendes).
Ultimately, One Cut of the Dead makes for a great triple feature with two of the year’s other best films, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Dolemite Is My Name, in its focus on lovable losers bravely hauling the burden of the cinematic dreams over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.