In my opinion, Japanese horror comedy One Cut of the Dead belongs in the pantheon of great zombie movies. It reinvents the genre much like Shaun of the Dead did, adding humor and smarts to the horror, with a whole dose of spoilery surprises. And yet, as of now, there are no plans for a (legal) release stateside. That means we’re likely in store for the next best thing: a remake.
Variety reports that producer Patrick Cunningham (Martha Marcy May Marlene) has secured the rights to remake One Cut of the Dead in English. “Most U.S. and Western audiences won’t get to see it. It has only a limited release outside Japan and is not being released in the U.S.,” Cunningham told the trade. “That’s such a shame for a film this fun and original.”
The basic premise of the film, without spoiling anything, is that an independent zombie film shooting all in one continuous take is invaded by real zombies during production. From there, things shift—and trust me, you don’t want to know any more about it.
The original film, written and directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda, was only scheduled for a small release in Japan in late 2017, but gained such buzz that it played for months on end and ended up grossing almost 1,000 times its budget. It then hit the international festival circuit (which is where I saw it) to great acclaim and many audience awards. Then, in December, a bootleg of the film made it onto Amazon Prime, which is probably when most people heard of it. Some have suggested, though, that occurrence could’ve have ruined its chances for a U.S. release.
But Cunningham is right, of course. Remaking the film in English is the best way to get American audiences to see it and it’s a film they need to see. However, having seen the film, it’s really one of those movies you can’t recreate. It’s lightning in a bottle. Sure, an American version can steal the structure—the twists and turns that make the film so unique—but that’s only part of it. The real magic comes from the actors, the setting, the camera work, and comedic timing, much of which is almost impossible to recapture in a remake. If anything, maybe news of this potential remake will just encourage people to seek out the original—which, as a matter of fact, you can do right now as it’s officially available on region-free Blu-ray. I highly, highly recommend checking it out without any knowledge of spoilers beforehand.
Cunningham has yet to hire a writer or director to tackle this project, and those will be the biggest steps forward—not just in trying to recreate the near-perfection of the original film, but also in determining whether audiences will get to see it in a theater or on a streaming service. “The goal is for as many people as possible to see it,” Cunningham told Variety. “We will know more about the direction it will take once we have attached a writer and director.”
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