REVIEW: “Follow the Dead” (2020)

We get a refreshingly ‘indie’ take on the zombie sub-genre with Adam William Cahill’s infectious (bad pun intended) Irish horror comedy “Follow the Dead”. This fun, kooky, at times gleefully irreverent romp bops along on the strengths of Cahill’s keen direction, his even better screenplay, and a fine cast who bring a playful energy to their colorful collection of characters. At the same time, there is some unexpected thematic heft and a surprising amount of heart that help this to be more than come copy-and-paste zombie flick.

At times the film’s modest budget is hard to miss. But like other good filmmakers, Cahill (serving as director, screenwriter, editor, and co-producer) doesn’t let that sink his ship which says a lot. In fact, some of the best showcases of good filmmaking is watching a confident and skilled writer-director overcome any constraints by the sheer quality of their craft. We certainly see that in “Follow the Dead”.

Robbie (Luke Corcoran) is your garden variety milquetoast. He’s a bit timid, lacks self-confidence, and doesn’t seem to know what he wants out of life. He recently moved back to his small Irish hometown where he lives with his sister, an aspiring YouTuber named Liv (Marybeth Herron) and his two cousins, the conspiracy theorist Jay (Luke Collins) and the lazy deadbeat Chi (Tadhg Devery). They’re an offbeat group and most of our time is spent in their company.

When a video of some sort of attack in Dublin goes viral, finding the truth among the wild theories and fake news proves difficult. The authorities are calling it a terrorist attack. Others call it a revolution. And then some are quick to usher in the zombie apocalypse. Robbie and his crew certainly have their ideas. But when the violence begins to spread – even making its way to their small town – the group comes face-to-face with the truth. And not just about the attacks, but about themselves.

Cahill maneuvers through his story well, leaning heavier on the comedy than the horror, but also bringing a sensibility that I wasn’t really expecting. It’s clear he cares about his characters, and some of their exchanges can be as heartfelt as they are hilarious. There are several perfectly delivered zingers, and a couple of running gags that landed every time. Yet there are also tender moments between Robbie and his eccentric family. Then you have his attempts at reconnecting with an old flame named Kate (Christina Ryan), an interesting character who I wish had been given more attention.

The movie is a little slow getting out of the gate, but once it does (particularly in the second half) most things begin to click into place. But there are a few noticeable holes in the story and the “rules” of this particular world remained a little murky. Also, there were a couple of moments where the shaky transitions to and from flashbacks weren’t quite as clear as they needed to be.

But overall “Follow the Dead” is an entertaining and big-hearted zom-com that embraces some of the genre’s many tropes, pokes fun at others, and has enough of its own flavor to stand out in the crowd. There are some genuinely good laughs and it has an emotional center which resonated with me more than I anticipated. As for Cahill, he does a really good job juggling the shifting tones, and he shrewdly works around the film’s budget restraints in ways befitting a seasoned director. It’s a rock-solid first feature and it’ll be fun seeing what he does next. “Follow the Dead” is currently streaming on Tubi.


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