Invasion of the Not Quite Dead - Exclusive Interview with AD Lane

It's a film many years in the making but, finally, it's finished and crowdfunding backers are getting to watch it from today, so Steve Taylor-Bryant sat down to talk with the creative genius behind soon-to-be-cult indie horror film Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, Mr AD Lane...


Eleven years ago, already four years into production, I started to financially contribute to a crowd funded horror film. A film that sounded like fun, a film pitched as a black comedy take on the zombie genre and, eleven years ago, I genuinely believed that this particular genre needed something different doing with it. Over a decade later, after many false starts and a worldwide pandemic, I can finally say that the film is finished and I have seen a screener of it. That film is Invasion of the Not Quite Dead and it’s time to, once again, check in with the filmmaker AD Lane…

Hey there my old friend! I guess before I delve into actual questions about the film, I should catch up with you. It’s a few years since we last spoke and the world has been through quite the trauma, so how are you doing?

So… where do I even begin Steve…

I’ve had 3 kids, lost 4 cats, moved house 6 times, had 5 jobs, got married, stayed married (absolute miracle), lost people I love, alienated people I adore, took obsession and addiction to ridiculous new level, and somewhere in amongst the madness of this film project I finally found answers to my own mental health issues, so I’m doing much better now thanks.

I remember back at the very beginning of this idea for crowdfunding your movie it was described as ‘A black comedy take on the zombie genre’. The question I suppose I should start with after having now seen Invasion is, what the hell happened there then?

Oh wow, you have a great memory… I’d almost forgotten that the film was anything other than a mess with your head, marmite explosion of ‘mental health horror’… well, to cut a very long 16 year story short, I became ill, both physically and mentally, ultimately from making this film, dealing with toxic people and my own brain trying to destroy me from within.

‘Invasion’ definitely started out a lot more chilled, more black comedy, less screw with your head, but it’s hard to make a fun happy film when you’re ultimately going through a lot of bad stuff, so the films tone shifted, a LOT.

There was a lot of craziness that happened behind the scenes in the early years that made me NOT want to make the film I was originally going to make, and at times, it stopped me even wanting to make the film at all.

There are many things I could say about Invasion, I could rewatch it and do an analytical approach to what I’ve seen, but I wanted to just watch the film once and then react from my gut. One thing I can say is that this is not your typical horror film. From this one watch I picked up on a multi-character, non-linear journey through physical and mental illness. A story of grief. A story that takes a raw deep dive into society, the grind of daily and family life, a film that touches on the after-effects of 2020 and Covid, on government corruption, albeit on a small-town mayoral level, and it’s all set to the visual landscape of Romero-inspired horror flick. I have to ask a question now and I suppose what I want to know is how much of the finished film was originally intended all those years ago and how much has changed over time as the world and we as people changed?

They… (not sure who THEY are) but ‘THEY’ say to write what you know, what you’ve experienced and when I was in my final year of university in 2007, I didn’t know much, hadn’t experienced much of life at that point, in fact, all I really knew was what I’d seen in the movies, and so the early years of ‘INVASION’ was as you summarised so perfectly, it was a much different concept, a black comedy horror that revolved around a virus stopping people from sleeping and it was only when they did finally fall asleep, they’d become zombie like, flesh eating people that could still think and go about their daily lives, I’d always loved the idea of making a zombie film, but… ‘not quite a zombie film’.

I found that the more I slipped deeper and deeper into a depression and allowed my obsessive tendencies to take over, the film became a lot more personal, a lot more darker, in fact a lot of stuff in the film was taken from my personal experiences, and especially in the earlier years I encountered a lot of bad toxic people from the industry that either took advantage, stole money or they tried to take control over the project using emotional blackmail, it was a deeply troubling time for me.

The only way I could save myself from losing it completely would be to put all of these bad emotions and experiences into the new script, which then evolved over many many different drafts and then again during filming, and then again during editing, and AGAIN during sound design… so the film became an experimental art film that would continue to evolve.

… but in regards to the pandemic, I’d say the film hasn’t changed much, the world has, the world has become more broken, more ill, people realising more and more that they are suffering from something, becoming more aware that they DO need more help, and it’s kinda strange that the world as my main character Sam puts it, “HAS GONE TO SHIT”, the world has caught up with ‘INVASION’ in the way that it’s mental health focussed and if it helps just one person to talk to someone about their issues, then for me, this 16 years has been worth the pain and struggle.

Whilst there isn’t the sheer amount of jump scares that maybe I was expecting in a horror film, the amount of blood on screen is impressive. I have always been a fan of Kate Griffiths’ work but she and her team seem to have outdone themselves on this project. How did you guys hook up for Invasion and, over the years, how did you keep that working relationship going to produce such stunning special effects despite the obvious amount of time the film has taken to make?

Kate did an incredible job, very early on I was told by several people in the industry, you’ll need a crew of 20 or more people, otherwise don’t bother… I kept the ‘INVASION’ crew to 3-4 people, most days it was just me and my DOP Josh White, other days I had my good friend Danny Allen doing sound (giving me more time to concentrate on catering, haha), and then for the big make up scenes we had Kate Griffiths who I couldn’t praise enough, she was just amazing to work with.

I met Kate when I DoP’d a little Christmas horror called ‘Christmas Slay’, straight away I knew that Kate was ambitious and also JUST as crazy as myself when it came to wanting to go BIG with horror effects, so it was a no brainer to make Kate head of prosthetics and make up and yes, I did love pushing Kate’s creativity.

With a film like ‘INVASION’ it’s not particularly a gore fest, it’s something very unique and different, but when you do see some of Kate’s work, it does jump out at you in a very unnerving way.

The inclusion of Wheatus songs in the film is something, I will admit, I didn’t see coming and yet their music really suits the mood of what we see on screen. How did that come about? What did Wheatus think of their music being used in such a dark tonal film? And if they were onboard from the beginning what the hell is wrong with them?

Way back in 2010 I get an email from a Brendan B. Brown, he introduces himself to me and I’m thinking ‘WHEATUS’, I know that name, please be ‘TEENAGE DIRTBAG’ WHEATUS, he was and a friendship formed over the next few years as I ended up touring with the band, shooting a feature documentary on them and just becoming part of the family and I really really wanted to showcase the bands newer material in the film, as a lot of their new music had shifted in tone to darker levels.

I could see the film opening on their unofficial sequel song to ‘Dirtbag’, called ‘From Listening To Lightning’, it just sets up the dark tone of the film perfectly and then other songs from their catalogue as you say JUST FIT and it’s pretty amazing to say we are the first and only feature film to include a lot of their more recent songs.

I’ve spent the best part of 4-5 years editing the film and doing the sound mix, so to work with their music has been a dream come true and honestly it’s made my life a lot easier editing the surreal scenes to some of their more intense tracks.

And yes… they must be CRAZY to want their music in a film like this.

Aside from the great choice of songs that are used throughout the movie (stay through the credits for a fantastic Wheatus performance), the actual score of the film from Daniel White adds, for want of a better term, a level of ‘mind fuck’ to an already intensely mental visual film. I know Daniel pretty well but even I was surprised at just how good he his as a composer. What does his 80’s inspired score add to the film for you as a storyteller?

Daniel did an incredible job, it’s funny because I met Daniel a few years ago and he came on board as our head of marketing and publicity, then a few years later he gets the creative bug to make his own music, oddly enough at the same time that I had to part ways with the original ‘INVASION’ composer for trying to extort more money from me, Daniel then asks me if he could compose the film and based off what I’d already heard him create, I very excitedly said YES, lets do this…

We just had the most perfect working relationship regarding the score, he gets the film like no one should, and when he composes a scene, he feels the scene, he gets emotional and then puts that into music form, I couldn’t imagine the film sounding any different now.

[Read Daniel's article about composing for the film over on AlbieMedia website today - Ed]

The casting is very impressive throughout the film. Each actor brings a great performance to life, whether as a creature, or a doctor, or a mayor and so on. How did you manage to assemble such a great cast and, over all these years, how did the actors manage to keep their performances so intense?

I have a confession to make, not a single actor was locked into a contract that would force them to stick with the film for as long as it would eventually take to make, I just couldn’t do that to anyone, I had a feeling that it was going to be a long shoot (60 days over 5 years) and I had this crazy idea that if people loved working on the film they’d stick with it and if anyone needed to quit, they could and I’d be forced into being a little creative with the writing/filming… a few actors did quit, and it did indeed make for a very interesting time, but for everyone who stuck by the film and by me, I’ll be eternally thankful, FRANK JAKEMAN who was with me since 2010 when we made the promo video, then waited patiently for several years till we could begin shooting, well, the film isn’t the film without Frank, who was just incredible to work with, not only did he bring out award winning performances, he also helped his fellow actors to be the best they could be too, it was just amazing to watch and be a part of, my only regret is losing my mind to this project and not being able to make several more films with Frank.

The highlight performances for me are due to the personal nature of it. I am a man who has had to have a sponsor at certain points in my life so the very tense yet supportive relationship between Sam (Frank Jakeman) and Lee (Neal Ward) are particularly impressive. When a film was supposed to start out as a comedy take on a horror film but evolves over time into this emotionally raw study of humanity and health, just how happy are you that the cast can follow the evolution and produce two such stunning performances?

I would often watch in awe when Frank and Neal would do their scenes, and just give the performances of their lives, like ‘THIS IS IT’.

One of the things that made that work so well was giving Frank full rein over his character and him co-writing a lot of the scenes, which just added to the realistic tone of the film, and then with the surrealistic editing, you really don’t know what’s going, what’s real, what’s a dream, or flash back, during my more crazier editing sessions I think I made a few flash backs within flash backs… but I can’t be sure.

Overall I’m incredibly proud of how the film looks, my DOP Josh White did so much on so little and stood by me the whole time, and the poor guy has watched over 30 different cuts of the film in the last 5 years, I honestly wouldn’t be here now completing the film if it wasn’t for a few very supportive people in my life.

Obviously, the backers over the years will get to see the film, and as somebody that waited only eleven years for it, I can state it was worth the wait, but what are the plans to get the film in front of as many eyeballs as possible?

Since I started editing the film, the top priority and I guess my only main priority was for everyone who had backed the film to get the chance to see the film and I know that sounds odd from someone who has made backers like yourself wait over a decade, but I never wanted to be a filmmaker who spent years making a film then be a dick to put it on hold for a few more years whilst the film did the festival run or shelved till a distributor picked it up, it was always ultimately a film for the backers, and I do feel shame and regret for making YOU/THEM wait so long for me to FIND the film I wanted to put out there and… also… don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting many to even like the film, it’s a raw, emotional, marmite, mental health horror movie that a lot of people just simply won’t get… and I’m not expecting people to love it, or even understand it, I would however want people to feel something, and maybe to even open up more about how they’re feeling, if more people that are struggling opened up more, it might just save lives... and it would be amazing if a film about death could keep more people alive.

Invasion of the Not Quite Dead is being emailed out to backers TODAY and will go on general release early next year. You can find out a lot more about the film tonight as AD Lane chats to Daniel White about Invasion of the Not Quite Dead in a Halloween Special radio show on Incapable Staircase Radio from 11:00pm.

Images - A D Lane/Invasion of the Not Quite Dead
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