Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Dead Matter – review

Director: Edward Douglas

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

The Dead Matter is a film spotlighting the music of director Edward Douglas' band Midnight Syndicate, indeed the film is an expansion and remake of a short Douglas made (of the same name) before the band was formed. The deluxe DVD set has, by way of interest, two CDs with the DVD – a Midnight Syndicate greatest hits and the film soundtrack. One thing I can’t fault with the film is the soundtrack and, if you are a Midnight Syndicate fan, you’ll want to see the film.

The film itself has faults, some glaring, but it also entertained me. It also had a budget – some $2 million I understand. So, what did it do with it?

Well, firstly (as you’ll see) they actually got some good actors in. Though, as you’ll see, they were mostly cameos – except for the lead villain. We start with the voice of Ian McCallister (Jason Carter, Demon Under Glass) who speaks of seeing darkness overturn the natural order. Zombies… we see a whole host of the buggers and this opening showed promise as they drifted in one direction we see a woman with her dead fella, who suddenly reanimates. A mother and child are threatened and a swordsman, Mark (Brian Van Camp), comes to the rescue.

Vellich with amulet
The zombies drift towards a building where vampire baddie Vellich (Andrew Divoff, the Twilight Zone – Red Snow) holds a scarab pendant (we later hear it is called the Tear of Osiris) that controls the dead and… He wears the most ridiculous wig, seriously if it wasn’t for the performance through the film that counterbalances said wig, well it would be up for crimes against cinema. Along comes Ian, he opens a box, there is a light, Vellich drops the pendant and the zombies all drop dead again. Remember that, because the box never has that effect again!

ghostly vision
Jumping a week ahead and Ian and Mark are heading for a mystic nexus where the pendant can be destroyed… in Ohio! They are attacked by Vellich who cuts Mark’s cheek – a magic cut that actually swaps cheeks later. He nearly controls Mark but McCallister is there with a cross and Mark does a runner with the pendant. He gets to the magical ruins and hides the pendant (under a few leaves!) and is then staked and killed by Vellich. The vampire enters the circle but visions of bleeding priests/druids chase him off. This is one lacking area; who are these priests? Who built the circle? A character seems possessed by them later, so it is important, but it is never answered.

Mike and Gretchen
Mike (Tom Nagel, Dracula’s Curse) meets girlfriend Gretchen (Sean Serino) in a graveyard. She is at her brother’s grave and whispers to it, soon. In a lab, there are congratulations to Frank (Christopher Robichaud) at the development of a new slimming drug. If this feels leftfield it is and the lab keeps cropping up. It becomes a plot point later but that is in an incomplete subplot/main-plot crossover that we’ll get back to. When asked to go and celebrate he says no, his girlfriend Jill (C.B. Spencer) has arranged something.

Jason Carter as McCallister
Said something is a trip to the woods with Mike and Gretchen to hold a séance at a ruin in the woods (yes the nexus). What scientist Frank is doing with grimoire toting Jill is unclear and doesn’t read right. Anyway, he finds the scarab, gives it to Gretchen and the séance goes better than expected. Gretchen dreams of zombie Mark and eventually he turns up and the film changes pace for a while as we get a zombie as accidental teacher of morality section, with Gretchen trying to get the silent undead to tell her of life after death and communication with her brother (and takes him on a fair ground and buys him ice cream). It sounds trite, I know, but it worked quite well. Soon, however, Vellich works out where his scarab is but the pendant seems to be taking over Gretchen. McCallister is also on the case…

Tom Savini as Sebed
I mentioned a sub-plot re the lab and it also ties in to another vampire called Sebed (Tom Savini), who is sort of a drug lord vampire and woefully underused. The diet drug also allows vampires to daywalk but is addictive and yet this entire subplot (that barrels into the main plot later) is so under-explored it is pitiful. It was really interesting from a distance but not explored anywhere near as much as it needed in order to explore the interesting aspect.

eat the cross
Vampire wise there were also some interesting moments such as a vampire killing another vampire by turning to smoke, entering the vampire’s body and killing him from the inside. We get a nice feeding in the mirror scene and also a vampire forced to pick up a cross and force it down his own throat. The vampires can cause illusionary hallucinations.

a victim
I have picked some issues already. Savini, Carter and Divoff raise the acting stakes in the film but the others had a tough act to follow. I wasn’t convinced by Sean Serino – and she had the main role. The problem was that, most of the time, her performance seemed to be under an opium influence it was so dreamy. That said, when the script called for fear she gave it and so the woman can act and thus I suspect it was a directorial issue.

Nevertheless the film was fun, however it could have been more. Some more explanation and expansion was definitely needed and the wig really had to go. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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