The 2017 Japanese surprise hit One Cut of the Dead is not the kind of movie that lends itself well to a remake. Much of its entertainment value comes from its unique surprises, which are difficult to reproduce with the same level of energy and creativity. Oscar-winning French director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) faithfully replicates the plot and characters from Shinichiro Ueda's original movie in Final Cut, but the result is mostly a bland cover version, with occasional slight deviations.

Produced on a budget of about $25,000 and shot over eight days, One Cut of the Dead became a word-of-mouth hit in Japan and around the world, spawning a pair of semi-sequels, including one produced over video chat at the height of the pandemic lockdown. It's the kind of scrappy, inventive, unpredictable achievement that can't be reproduced. Trying to remake One Cut of the Dead is like trying to remake similar one-of-a-kind successes like The Blair Witch Project or the recent Skinamarink.

That doesn't stop Hazanavicius from giving it his best effort, of course, with a cast of talented actors, including his wife and frequent collaborator Bérénice Bejo -- who was nominated for an Oscar for The Artist -- and French star Romain Duris. In a way, having access to a much larger budget and famous actors works against Hazanavicius on Final Cut because he isn't forced into quick, ingenious solutions under financial pressure and time constraints. He has all the resources he needs to meticulously copy Ueda's film and drain it of most of its energy.

Anyone who's seen One Cut of the Dead will know exactly what's coming in Final Cut, which is detrimental to a movie that relies on defying expectations. Like One Cut of the Dead, Final Cut opens with a single, unbroken take lasting more than 30 minutes, depicting what appears to be a ramshackle, low-budget horror movie. Final Cut begins with fake opening credits for a movie titled Z, about the small cast and crew of a zombie B-movie discovering that their shooting location has been invaded by actual zombies.

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Romain Duris wields an axe in Final Cut

Right away, there's a clue that something is off with this movie-within-the-movie, as all the clearly French characters have Japanese names. There are awkward pauses in the middle of seemingly important conversations. The camera jostles randomly or holds for far too long on a shot with nothing in the frame. The characters go on unrelated tangents before shifting back to the subject of the zombie attack. At one point, a hand reaches out and wipes fake blood off the camera lens.

The one-joke premise of both One Cut of the Dead and Final Cut is that this initial chaotic continuous shot is a production being put on by the actual main characters of the movie. Once the fake end credits role for Z, Final Cut shifts back one month earlier to show all the behind-the-scenes drama that created the jumbled, confusing "movie" that opened the actual movie. Duris plays Remi, a small-time director of corporate videos and true-crime re-enactments who's approached by a Japanese investor (One Cut of the Dead's Yoshiko Takehara) to create a unique live broadcast of a single-take zombie movie to launch a new streaming service.

Romain Duris, Berenice Bejo and Simone Hazanavicius deal with the hazards of filmmaking in Final Cut

The concept of One Cut of the Dead already relies on multiple levels of meta-commentary, but Hazanavicius adds another level by making the movie within Final Cut a remake of the movie within One Cut of the Dead. That raises some strange questions about why the same exact things go wrong behind the scenes on the shoot in Final Cut that went wrong behind the scenes on the shoot in One Cut of the Dead. However, it also allows for some of Final Cut's only moments of fresh humor, as the French characters attempt to convince their Japanese investors that not everything that worked in a Japanese movie will work in a French movie.

Part of the joke is that Remi and his collaborators fail to make a successful argument, allowing for an in-film reason why Final Cut so faithfully follows One Cut of the Dead. The self-reflexive humor was already stretched a bit thin in One Cut of the Dead, and Hazanavicius stretches it even thinner in Final Cut, with a running time 15 minutes longer than the original. Duris and Bejo are charming as the supportive film-industry couple who both end up starring in Z at the last minute, and there are some sweet if underdeveloped bonding moments between them and their horror-obsessed daughter Romy (played by Hazanavicius' daughter Simone).

The Artist is an exuberant and heartfelt tribute to classic Hollywood filmmaking, and at best, Final Cut could be the same kind of tribute to indie genre films. Hazanavicius doesn't have the same eye for horror that he did for vintage silent films, though, and Final Cut is more of a straightforward re-enactment than a transformative pastiche. It captures the rhythms of the original but not the spirit.

Final Cut opens Friday, July 14, in select theaters.