It's a bit weird to me when a movie that's less than a year or at least a year old passes me by, or that I've heard of it but haven't seen it. Case in point: last year's "The Dead Matter." Directed by Midnight Syndicate main man Edward Douglas, and a remake of sorts of his earlier film of the same name that was shot on camcorder, I had heard good things about this movie, with Fangoria, Arrow in the Head and FEARnet singing its praises. So, does it live up to the hype? For the large part, yes.
The plot goes a little something like this: Gretchen (Sean Serino) is morning the loss of her brother, so she and her buddies-Mike (Tom Nagel), Jill (C.B. Spencer) and Frank (Christopher Robichaud) hold a seance to bring him back. Well, what do ya know, Gretchen finds an ancient relic that can bring back and control the dead. Thing is, two warring vampire lords-Vellich (Andrew Divoff) and Sebed (Tom Savini) want possesion of the relic, and vampire hunter McCallister (Jason Carter) wants to destroy it.
If there's anything that harms the movie, its the fact that the actors playing our heroes don't do a good job. Serino tries her hardest, but she's just not that convincing as our lead protagonist, no matter how hard the movie tries to make us care about her plight. Meanwhile, Robichaud is hit and miss as the science loving Frank-sometimes admirably goofy, but other times kind of flat, while Nagel and Spencer feel like they're just kinda there.
Apart from that, "The Dead Matter" is a lot of campy fun, and one of those movies I find myself disappointed that I didn't see it sooner. A fun mix of Gothic atmosphere and tongue-in-cheek black humor, the plot and events usually play like Hammer meets a horror-comedy from the 80's ala "Night of the Creeps" with vampires and zombies. Speaking of which, the dead here are interesting-the zombified Mark (Brian Van Camp) is amusing with his drinking beer and other goofy antics that thankfully don't suck, but most of the dead here of of the more haunting, specter like variety ala "Carnival of Souls." I find it refreshing to see someone who thinks outside of the box instead of constantly feeding us the typical zombies eating yards of intestines type of movie.
Also, while our heroes are bland, everyone else does a fine job. Divoff is a hoot to watch (bad fright wig and all), while Savini makes the most of his time as his vampire rival, and Carter is a lot of fun as the vampire hunter out to stop them. Oh, and while not a gore-fest, you still get some nice scenes here and there (including an awesome bit with a jaw being torn off), though I must say the director must also be commended for not going overboard with splatter.
So, will "The Dead Matter" win any awards for originality? Probably not. It is however, a refreshing little sleeper that shows what plenty of gumption and can-do spirit can accomplish, and for that, I applaud it. Check it out if you dig your Gothic horror with a sense of humor.