You want zombies? The Dead Matters got 'em. You want vampires? Yup, those too. And lots of 'em. How about evil weight-loss pharmaceutical corporations run by the undead? It's got one of those as well. In fact, the only thing that The Dead Matter is missing is a vampire hunter who’s chasing the evil vampi- ... oh, wait. It's got TWO of those! And one turns into a zombie to boot. Good night Irene!! What more could you want?!
Born a decade ago over a pair of d20 and some zombie modules, the plot of The Dead Matter explores what would happen if an ancient Amulet of Undead Control fell from the hands of an arch-fiend vampire named Vellich (Andrew Divoff) and into the hands of the innocent Gretchen (Sean Serino) who longs only to be reunited with her dead brother Sean (Kenyatta Foster).
The storyline of The Dead Matter is, well… a little wacky. There are just a lot of characters and groups and motives. Just as you think you know where the story’s going, a bend in the plot or the introduction of another character or faction causes you to go “huh”.
If Douglas and his actors hadn’t pulled off the perfect blend of comedy with a touch of horror and a sprinkle of suspense so well, it wouldn’t have worked for me. Too many bad guys diluted any one of them so eventually none of them were terribly intimidating, but the constant revelation of new people and motivations heightens the frenetic momentum of the film and adds to the general wackiness.
Unless you're Peter Griffin talking about that time when he, Lois, and the Pope all visited the Mormon Tabernacle Boys Choir together, flashbacks are wicked and should be used sparingly. I feel The Dead Matter could have used just a few more though. I wanted to connect deeper with the characters, Gretchen especially. I wanted to feel her plight earlier and understand why she was such an occult-junkie.
I did begin to get a feeling for the character when she takes a newly-controlled zombie friend out for a slow-motion day of montage-making experiences. Ice cream in the park. Merry-go-round riding. Laughter in the sun. This strikes you as funny, a pretty girl spending time with a rigid mute undead. And it is. Not long after though, you realize that it hasn’t just been a day in the park for our amusement, but a reenactment of all the moments Gretchen had with her brother just before he was killed in a car accident (possibly caused by her?). The contrast of humor and sadness work well to give the character a bit more depth without the risk of dragging the film down too far into serious tones.
The film is the brainbaby of Edward Douglas, half of Midnight Syndicate, a small company that's cornered the market for music in the haunted attraction and RPG industries. When focusing their musical talent on a film's score, Douglas and Gavin Goszka (the other half of Midnight Syndicate) remind me how much music alone can positively impact a movie.
Watching The Dead Matter in a theatre with only a modest sound system, I jumped at no less than three moments in the film. And I'm not easily startled. I have the blood pressure of a corpse and the reflexes of a snail. Drilling down into my visceral nervous system takes some doing, but the perfectly orchestrated music and Foley had me tossing my popcorn like a newb.
I respect attention to detail in a film, especially when that attention is paid to any artwork that’s shown onscreen. In the case of The Dead Matter, Gretchen’s friend Jill (C.B. Spencer), is an artist. Standing next to a half-finished painting she's put to canvass, we’re treated to her interpretation of a supernatural incident the friends experienced. And it's COOOOL! I want a print of it in fact, even incomplete as it is.
It’s a nice symbiosis too: a film benefits from some truly intriguing art while a talented artist (Amber Foth in this case, lead singer in the band Hogwash) gets some good exposure. Kudos to Art Director Todd Malkus for this.
With an impressive cast and entertaining special effects, The Dead Matter is a fun and functional film that merits a couple of viewings.