I just want to start off by saying that Coupez! (Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist), the French adaptation of One Cut of the Dead is an excellent film. The horror comedy is probably the best I’ve seen this year. Coupez! is one of those adventures in film that’s best if you go in cold. Especially if you haven’t seen One Cut of the Dead (Shin’ichirô Ueda, Dreaming Novelist). If you haven’t seen Coupez! and you’re trying to decide if you should, go watch it now. (It’s OK. I’ll wait.)
OK, going forward with this review I’m going to assume that you’re reading this after you’ve seen the singular and refreshing Coupez!. This movie works because it’s not just about zombies. Zombies have been done to death in film, they have risen from the dead because that’s what zombies do, and they have been done in film again. I’m sure at the point One Cut of the Dead was made, people were sick of zombie movies, in practice.
But still hanging on to the idea that something unique could be done with zombie movies, in theory. I think that was what people thought was so novel about the experience of One Cut of the Dead. A zombie movie being made in an abandoned warehouse with a grouchy, hack director, and a surly crew, and then real zombies attack? That’s pretty fun. One Cut of the Dead was originally based on a play called Ghost in the Box by Ryoichi Wada.
Coupez! has basically the same premise as One Cut of the Dead. However, there are of course a few changes because it is a remake. And in changing a few things, the French film manages to be both silly and satirical, poking fun at the real struggle of filming a remake. The film follows three acts and is not, thankfully, one long cut. The zombie film being filmed itself is a little over half an hour and is a continuous film take.
There are many great performances in the film, and especially of note is the new addition of the sound engineer Fatih. Fatih’s many responsibilities during a live streaming, one-take horror film shoot is ever-changing which honestly led to some of the biggest laughs of the film for me. The harangued director Remi Bouillon is led with perfection, and some apoplectic anger, by Romain Duris (Our Struggles, The New Girlfriend).
His wife Nadia (Bérénice Bejo, A Knight’s Tale, The Artist) is the makeup artist on set who steps in last minute to fill a role, ending up being the best actor on set (with the inside joke, perhaps, that Bejo herself is a really good actor with many awards to her name). The daughter of director Michel Hazanavicius, Simone Hazanavicius (The Good People), plays Romy, the daughter of Remi Bouillon, the director in the movie.
The entire film itself (and also its predecessor) could follow this old adage: Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you just told them. It’s beautiful and it works. And a lot of what works in the remake is what works in the first one. I love a good framing device or two and a meta-story.
Some of what is so perfect about the comedy moments are just this: the film makes new moments but keeps the old reverse-engineered comedy gold. Focusing on Coupez! itself, there are so many moments that I of course didn’t get in the first or second act, or details I may have missed, that came back as big laughs in the third act.
I love zombie movies. I love what Japan has done with zombie movies. But I also loved Coupez!. It was a brilliant example of how to have fun with remakes, as much as it was a horror comedy zombie film. The painstaking process of capturing a movie on film was also an engaging part of the movie for me. Coupez! really sells how much work the entire cast and crew put in. Myself, I haven’t seen One Cut of the Dead, although I’ve done some reading up on it.
So, I’m not in the camp of people who’ve seen it who will be comparing it to the original. That being said, after the movie I enjoyed hearing the buzz in the theatre. “I liked it!” one person said. “My only 5-star pick!” said another. “I think I liked it better than the original!” said yet another. If you were a hardcore fan of One Cut of the Dead and you were super grumpy with this French remake, rest assured I didn’t find you, haha. Though I certainly will be tracking down the original to watch it, now.
I caught Final Cut (Coupez!) at the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival. SFFF runs from November 18-26th at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It’s not yet available to stream. One Cut of the Dead is available to stream on Shudder.