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Follow the Dead (2020) Review

Adam William Cahill (Inertia, Loose Thread) the writer and director of Follow the Dead has an interesting question to ask. If you saw the start of the zombie apocalypse, would you believe it? That’s the situation Robbie Whelan (Luke Corcoran, The Siege of Bóthar Anam, Pogonophobia) finds himself in when his online hookup shows him a video of what appears to be zombies running amuck in Dublin. He is distinctly dubious.

He goes home alone to the house he shares with his sister Liv (Marybeth Herron, Inertia, Loose Thread) who’s an aspiring influencer and cousins Jay (Luke Collins) and Chi (Tadhg Devery, The Cured, The Gallows Tree) who aspire to stay as stoned as their unemployment benefits will allow. Like his date, Jay, a conspiracy buff, is worried about the videos that are all over the internet, “They’re real, I’ve been researching them for hours!”

And maybe there is something to them. The police, in the form of Robbie’s ex-wife Kate (Cristina Ryan, Thank You Come Again, Red Room) turn up at their door to tell them of a town meeting concerning a “serious situation”.

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Ireland has been producing a fair number of genre films over the past few years, ranging from serious films like Gateway and The Sleep Experiment to not so serious ones like Grabbers, and those in the middle like The Boys from County Hell. And it’s in that middle ground that Cahill sets Follow the Dead. There’s a strong Shaun of the Dead influence, especially through the film’s first act, but as it goes on the tone becomes more serious.

A group of masked terrorists, the film refers to them as vigilantes, but that tends to conjure up images of Charles Bronson or Liam Neeson, have seized upon the confusion and are killing people in the name of revolution. There’s no word from the government, and all anyone has to go on is social media.  On a more personal level, it also means that the characters have to pull themselves together to deal with the situation. And for some, that means confronting some unpleasant truths, both about themselves and the world around them. 

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This gives Follow the Dead room to comment on internet centric society in general and more specifically conspiracy theories, disinformation and fake news. That’s something that’s become even more relevant since the film was shot in with the rise of AI and deep fakes. It feels almost as if they were seeing the future and the rise of AI and deep fake technology when you realize the film was shot in 2017 and finished post-production in 2020. One can also see a parallel to the events surrounding COVID, the posting of deliberate disinformation and uncertainty over what to believe among the many claims circulating online and the violent protests offline.

Thankfully Cahill never lets the proceedings stay too ponderous for long and Follow the Dead ends up with a three way battle between our heroes, the zombies and the terrorists. A battle that’s the result of a chain of events started by a neighbour’s dog becoming zombified and biting its owner. As I said, it doesn’t stay too serious for too long.

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In terms of effects, the zombie makeup is simple but effective and the gore is pretty much limited to some fake blood. Cinematographer Stephen C. Walsh’s (Be Good or Be Gone, Spa Weekend) camera work and some effectively suggestive work by sound designer Robin Sherry Wood (The United States of Horror: Chapter 1, Poster Boys) help make up for that and add a bit more impact to the film’s violent moments.

If you’re looking for a full on zombie horror film, Follow the Dead probably won’t be what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking for a mix of scares, humour and social commentary, it’s certainly worth watching. It’s a promising first feature for Cahill and a showcase for most of the cast.

Indie Rights has released Follow the Dead on Digital Platforms, you can find more information on the film’s website or Facebook page. If you believe what you see on the internet that is. If you want more zombies, FilmTagger can dig up a few titles for you.

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