The Dead Matter (2010) – By Nic Brown

Necromancy – the use of magic to control the dead. The idea isn’t new. Voodoo priests called Bocors specialize in zombification and the control of the dead. Rituals were done at burial to provide the wealthy and powerful of ancient Egypt with servants when they entered the afterlife. Even vampirism has an element of it as the sire is believed to be able to control any vampire they create. But what if the power to control the dead were real and what if a powerful vampire were out to claim it for himself? That’s the idea behind THE DEAD MATTER.

Vampire hunter McCallister (Jason Carter) is hot on the trail of Vellich (Andrew Divoff), an ancient vampire who has learned the secret of a lost relic. The relic, a scarab amulet, allows those who wield it to control the dead. This control doesn’t just extend to corpses, however; it also includes other vampires, so if Vellich succeeds in claiming it he will be master of all undead, including his vampire brethren.

McCallister manages to steal the amulet away from Vellich, but the artifact can only be destroyed in one magical location: a sacred stone circle somewhere in the woods of rural Ohio. Before he can succeed in his quest, Vellich attacks. He kills McCallister’s assistant and wounds the vampire hunter, who is forced to flee. Vellich is unable to claim the amulet though as it was hidden before he could force it from them.

This might be the end of the story if not for Gretchen (Sean Serino). She and her friend Jill (C.B. Spencer) convince their boyfriends to join them for a trip into the woods to visit a “magical place”. The place happens to be the stone circle where the amulet was lost. When they find the charm and begin a séance the unexpected happens as they unleash the magical forces within the scarab.

Gretchen becomes obsessed with the scarab’s power. She desperately wants to speak with her dead brother. As she experiments with the amulet, Vellich and McCallister both sense the artifacts power and converge on the young woman to reclaim it. Now Gretchen is torn by her desire to use the dark power to bring her brother back and the knowledge that for the good of the world the amulet must be destroyed.

THE DEAD MATTER stands out amid the myriad field of zombie horror. The film mixes in a touch of humor with its gore, but doesn’t go over the top looking for laughs. Writers Edward Douglas (who also directed the film) and Tony Demci create a fusion of the zombie and vampire genres that includes such unexpected twists as a weight loss drug with strange side effects for vampires and a broadening of the idea of what constitutes dead tissue where the power of the scarab is concerned.

Robert Kurtzman’s Precinct 13 Entertainment, known for their FX work on films like HOSTEL and THE RAGE, provided the special effects for the film, and their mix of traditional gore effects CGI imagery works well for the movie. However, THE DEAD MATTER is not driven by the special effects; it has a good story behind it and the cast, a mix of horror veterans and newcomers, really brings it to life. Gretchen’s obsession with bringing her brother back works as a powerful motivator for having an otherwise “good” character make many less than nice choices. So check out Edward Douglas’s THE DEAD MATTER. It has vampires, zombies and magic, oh my!