Socially Conscious Zombie Flick?

FILMINK speaks to Aussie actor Erryn Arkin & producer Kasey Ray-Stokes about ‘Followed’, a zombie movie offering audiences something more than just the gore.

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Zombies are the cinema trend that just won't die! They have been lumbering, moaning and even occasionally running for some time now. Despite their refusal to let the public's attention out of their clammy grip, zombie films are noted more for their gruesome scenes of violence than social commentary. US director James Kicklighter's Followed, however, offers something different. "In our film, the zombies are not the predators, but a visual reminder that our actions can have negative effects on others," explains producer Kasey Ray-Stokes.

Australian actor Erryn Arkin (pictured) plays protagonist Peter. Having made the jump from Summer Bay to Hollywood, Arkin concurs with Ray-Stokes saying, "The story has a lot of depth to it. Followed can also be considered a psychological drama, as opposed to just another horror film or zombie flick. I hope that viewers find it entertaining and are as intrigued by the story as I was when I first read the script. It's a little bit darker than Home and Away."

Director Kicklighter, working from an original short story by author William McIntosh, filmed scenes that showed hordes of the undead demonstrating against their treatment by the living. "One of the main changes we made is the addition of a political rally at the beginning of the story," says Ray-Stokes. "We thought it would be important for the audience to see the way Peter reacts to how the government is portraying the problem of the followers."

Dig a little deeper beneath the surface of the zombie film sub-genre and there are other examples of a conscience to be found in previous pictures. White Zombie featured Bela Lugosi as an abusive factory-owner who exploits zombies as slave labour in colonial Haiti. Dawn of the Dead by George Romero still works as a satire on consumer culture. "I must admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the zombie genre before I started working on Followed," confesses Ray-Stokes. "However, I remember watching Fido and thinking that there was an opportunity to use this popular genre for satire or even social commentary. As far as other zombie films, Shaun of the Dead is just plain fun to watch."

Arkin describes the story of Followed as being about "cause and effect: how the choices we make in our everyday lives - on a conscious or unconscious level - can have an impact on the world around us." In this film, the zombies rise from the dead to haunt the people responsible for their deaths. Arkin's character is dogged by a young girl and he becomes obsessed with trying "to determine what the cause of this is, before it destroys him mentally or otherwise." Playing the role of the vengeful girl-zombie is young Californian Abigail de Reyes. "Abby is amazing. She does a great job in the film, and has a bright future ahead of her. I have to say, she is quite convincing playing an un-dead corpse, which isn't the easiest thing to do... or be followed by!"

Not only is Arkin a member of the ‘Australian Invasion' of actors in Hollywood, he is also interested in pursuing a career as a screenwriter. "I love the entire process of storytelling and always have, as far as I can remember," he muses. "I write a lot and am usually working on a screenplay, whether or not it goes any further. I just wrote a pilot that was filmed here in LA called Cell/Phone, which will be released online and to mobile devices later in the year. At the moment, screenwriting is another creative outlet that I enjoy when I'm not on set or in front of the camera."

Followed will be submitted to film festivals in the US, and around the world including Australia. For more information about the film, go here.  

Picture caption: Erryn Arkin, courtesy of JamesWorks Entertainment. 

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