Dir. Michel Hazanavicius (2023)
A director is tasked with making a live, single-take zombie movie where the cast is actually turned into zombies in this French remake of the Japanese cult classic One Cut of the Dead.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Shin'ichiro Ueda's 2017 film One Cut of the Dead was outstanding, a meta-commentary on filmmaking that just so happened to take place within a horror movie and containing a quirky, unique comedic style that has never really been duplicated. Meta horror films have been all the rage since Wes Craven nearly perfected the model with Scream, with varying levels of success. Meta comedy horror, however, is very rarely done well. And I mean like, three times total, if you're counting Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. The third one, of course, would be Ueda's ode to the actual art of film, which, while not perhaps as funny as T&DVE was a movie about making movies about making movies, a 4D treatise on cinema that became a smash cult favorite overnight.
So what happens when you want to make a remake of a commentary, a critique of a critique? Director Michel Hazanavicius, who won an Oscar for meta-drama The Artist, had been jonesing to make another meta film and immediately jumped at the chance to remake Ueda's film. His technical eye for detail allowed the film to take it one step further, delivering a shrewd (and hilarious) examination of the difference in film styles between continents and the nature of meta film and filmmaking itself. There are scenes in Final Cut which are practically shot-for-shot compared to the original film, but Hazanavicius manages to make the film his own with a few minute details that allow for the difference between the two. While there's very little need to see the remake if you've seen the original, the simple fact that there will be some people who see this one and spread the gloriousness that is this concept makes it all worthwhile regardless of the remake's necessity.
Unlike other horror remakes, which strive to update old classics or shed light on films that were never able to escape their home countries, Final Cut is a relatively quick retake on an already refreshing concept, as it was made less than five years after the original. It's not a film that needs to be made, for sure: nothing particularly groundbreaking is added and there's very little that needed to be added in the first place. However, art is not beholden to its necessity. Just because something doesn't need to exist does not mean that it shouldn't. Hazanavicius makes a film that is the equal of the original in almost every way, a film that champions its predecessor by paying homage with subtle references and shoutouts.
If you are the type of horror fan that is going to go into a remake with arms crossed and a refusal to budge on expectations, I am definitely not the reviewer for you. I was an early defender of Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead and am still an ardent lover of Dennis Iliadis' The Last House on the Left, despite how both films are inferior to their originals. I feel similarly about Hazanavicius' film: it lacks the originality of the original, which indeed makes it "inferior" to One Cut of the Dead, but it's still a worthwhile effort that will bring the brilliant concept to a larger audience. This is an idea that needs to be seen by everyone. If it must be done in French, so be it. It's hilarious, even in its small differences, and it's a raucous good time for anybody who loves cheesy horror movies.
One final note: you'll notice there's not a whole lot of commentary here that covers what the film is actually about. That's by design, as this is a movie you really need to be able to go into almost blind. I beg you, please do not give up on the film. If you're a more discerning horror fan, you will likely be on the verge of turning the movie off multiple times within the first thirty minutes. Stick with it. You won't be disappointed that you did.
Who this movie is for: Horror comedy lovers, Zombie movie fans, Remakeaholics
Bottom line: Final Cut is a film that didn't particularly need to be made, but it's also a damn good film regardless. Director Michel Hazanavicius does a phenomenal job of capturing the laughter and character of the original without losing any of its punch. While I would definitely recommend the original One Cut of the Dead if you were dying tomorrow and could only watch one, you don't really lose anything if you choose to watch it in French. It's a brilliant concept that isn't diminished by its polish, and it's a gem of a film. Make sure you note Jean-Pascal Zadi (Smoking Causes Coughing) as the film's composer, a role that made me laugh every time he was on-screen.