If you’re not in Japan, you may be forgiven for having missed the Japanese comedic horror One Cut of the Dead. （カメラを止めるな！） The film shot to unexpected fame after its release in 2017, and demonstrated director Shinichiro Ueda’s propensity for extremely long, single-shot scenes. Now Ueda is back with another quirky and creative short film – a film shot on zoom.
Nobody involved of the making of the film had to meet in person to produce One Cut of the Dead Mission: Remote, and it comprises of smartphone videos shot by the actors themselves, and recording from Zoom meetings – which, after a few months under lockdown have become a horror situation all on their own.
As you can imagine, hilarity ensues as the actors try to film their own scenes using shaky selfie-sticks and while it’s not particularly high-brow it certainly lightens the mood.
The short film features the same characters audiences met in his 2017 international award-winning feature, which included a lengthy 37-minute single-shot scene, and despite its silliness, demonstrates Ueda’s ingenuity as an out-of-the-box filmmaker.
One Cut of the Dead Mission: Remote was released on Youtube earlier this year, and is free for global audiences to watch:
“All of Japan, the entire world, is feeling a bit stressed out over the fears about the coronavirus, and so I just had a simple wish to cheer people up a bit through light-hearted entertainment,” Ueda told The Associated Press in an interview (on Zoom).
“Watching entertainment has saved me, helped me cope often when I was depressed. I sensed a mission of sorts that I have to make this work now.”
According to Yuri Kageyama, writing for AP, “the work communicates a powerful, moving message about creative people coming together, despite obstacles, and their unwavering devotion to filmmaking”.
Ueda doesn’t only direct his films, but edits them and writes his own screenplays too. He’s become a master of making the most out of a very limited budget (the 2017 One Cut of the Dead had a budget of only $28 000) – as his latest short film demonstrates.
Low budgets are not the only hurdles Ueda has had to leap, but he seems to take these challenges on with relish. Commenting on his tendency to include abnormally long shots, he said “All the techniques, the filming, lighting, recording must continue without stopping. The actors must keep acting without stopping. What’s being demanded is enormous. But that difficulty is what makes it fantastic. In a sense, everyone has to come together, to get that one shot.”
One Cut of the Dead Mission: Remote is being called a “comedic horror” film by news outlets, but really it’s more like a ridiculous spoof of the Japanese film and television industry, produced in a surprising and refreshing way. It makes for a good laugh, but might also trigger some residual trauma from the days of daily zoom calls and “virtual parties”.