I can honestly say I've never seen anything like this before. It feels like a deconstructed sandwich you'd get at some hipster restaurant. It's less a horror movie and more of a lesson in how to make one that stands out. Leave it to the filmmakers of Japan to showcase the ins and outs of complex filmmaking and turn them into a zombie movie. There are three standout phases of the film: The introduction, the explanation, and the execution. While the first is entertaining and the second fairly banal, the third is mind-blowingly impressive and makes the whole thing worth watching.
The film begins with an uninterrupted long take that lasts a good half-hour, drawing you in with a horror movie that feels fairly generic, but then you find out why in the second phase. Every performance is impressive because of the layered weight that every role takes on. I'm struggling to put it into words because I think it's best if you see it for yourself, and I don't want to spoil the film's true nature too much.
In the end, we get to see how this thing was filmed in-universe, and it's an absolute thrill. It made me appreciate every film production since the dawn of film, particularly the genre films that have to juggle makeup, costumes, and visual effects alongside performance and story. Making movies is hard work, but the effort often speaks for itself.
Japanese filmmakers have always impressed me. Akira Kurosawa and Takashi Miike are two of my favorites for different reasons. The one thing they gave in common in a masterful command of the mechanics of filmmaking. This can also be said of Ueda's funny and well constructed One Cut of the Dead.
Unless you're paying attention you will miss the opening sequence that is a staggering long take. It's great as it's the culmination of the latter part of the film. If I describe it to you, it might go over your head so the less you know, the better. There is a big movie-within-a-movie concept that pays off by the end as you see just how much work went into the construction of this film. It's a horror movie. It's a comedy. It's a documentary, sort of.
If you aren't the type to enjoy seeing the strings of a movie being pulled in front of you, this might pass you by. However, any film nerd worth their salt will enjoy the hell out of this and laugh like I did.