It is six months after the zombie outbreak. Chinatsu has relocated to Hollywood but the shock has rendered her mute. She is working as a waitress when the restaurant is abruptly overrun by zombies. This is actually a sequel to One Cut of the Dead that director Takayuki Higurashi is about to shoot upon network request. At the same time, his daughter Mao’s American boyfriend Joe wants her to join him as he goes to Hollywood in search of an acting career. The production gets the idea to set the sequel in Hollywood but drastic last minute budget cuts means they have to improvise Hollywood in Japan. As the time of the live broadcast nears, Takayuki goes to sleep in a coffin and is transported away, meaning that he cannot make it back in time to direct. Mao steps into his shoes but as the production goes live, it proceeds to suffer a series of mishaps.
One Cut of the Dead (2017) was one of the most unique zombie films. We started watching a standard seeming Zombie Film that appeared to be shot in a single somewhat raggedy take – what is referred to in filmmaking terms as a Long Take. Abruptly about the 37 minute film, the point-of-view pulled back to show the making of the film we had just seen where we discovered there was a whole hilarious other story that was going on in the margins during the making of the film.
This is a sequel to One Cut of the Dead. It reunites most of the major cast from the original – Takayuki Hamatsu as the director, Mao as his daughter, Yuzuki Akiyama as the lead actress, Harumi Shuhama as his wife and Yoshiko Takehara as the strange wizened network executive. The only person not present is the first film’s director Shinichiro Ueda where directorial duties here are taken over by Yuya Nakaizumi who was assistant director on the original. Ueda and the cast later put together an internet special during the pandemic with One Cut of the Dead: Mission Remote (2020). The original is also supposed to be undergoing a remake from Michel Hazanavicius with Final Cut (2022).
You suspicion going into the sequel is that it is going to be one of those jokes that loses all its effect in the retelling – the original’s effect was its very novelty – and that a sequel is only trying to repeat something when you already know what the punchline is. One is not wrong in assuming this and the sequel simply does a repeat of the original, albeit changing the locale to ‘Hollywood’, while reusing the same structure where we open in the film-within-a-film and then pull back to show the making of that film and find another drama taking place in the margins.
The sequel also has a much shorter runtime (58 minutes), meaning that we only get 17 minutes of the actual film-within-a-film (less than half of what there was in the original). We get a far more contained and less ambitious first half where the action runs around a mocked-up L.A restaurant rather than an abandoned factory. This is okay and quite a bit more gorily enthusiastic than the original was. The bulk of the film takes place in what I guess you could call the film-outside-the-film – the drama that happens behind the scenes of the shoot – as it did in the original, which is where the fun starts to occur.
The second half is essentially a reprise of the original where we saw assorted comic mishaps going on and learn what really did happen. There is some amusing fun when it comes to the crew’s attempt to create Los Angeles in Japan – spoofing the Japanese obsession with American culture where the Americans are all Japanese actors wearing Hawaiian shirts and blonde wigs. The most amusement comes in the scenes replicating the Hollywood sign with pieces of cardboard being held by crew that proceed to get blown away by the wind. There are assorted mini-dramas with the lead actress being given sleeping pills and Mao and boyfriend Nozomi de Lencquesaing having to stand in to improvise, with she being unable to tell him she doesn’t want to go to Hollywood.
This section also plays on the familiar – repeats of scenes with the drunken crew member who throws up, the mother who ad libs and starts wading into the action with her martial arts. It all felt like it needed more substance and that the running time was not nearly enough to allow the film’s slight spinoff concept time to find its feet. As it is, the idea feels underdeveloped.