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'Dead Matter' comes alive for sneak peek
'Dead Matter' comes alive for sneak peek
By SUE HOFFMAN
"The Dead Matter" brought cheers from the living last weekend at Tower City Cinemas in Cleveland.
Hollywood celebrities joined local cast and crew, support staff, producers and investors at a sneak peek of the film before its general distribution, expected by early 2010.
Edward Douglas, of Munson, directed and co-produced his dream film 14 years after making his original $2,000 version with friends from John Carroll University in University Heights. Many of the tracks and song ideas from the original film score became early signature tracks for his band, Midnight Syndicate, which produces Halloween music compact discs that are sold worldwide.
The subsequent $2 million version is produced by Midnight Syndicate and Hollywood FX producer Robert Kurtzman's Precinct 13 Entertainment. Filming took place two years ago in Crestline in Richland County. An old Bissman Co. warehouse and a cemetery in Bellville provide perfectly chilling scenery, as well as the Mansfield Reformatory featured in "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994).
"This night has been a long time coming," Mr. Douglas said. "It feels incredible being around the family and friends who have supported both versions of the movie and Midnight Syndicate as well as all of the great, dedicated people here tonight that believed in the project from the beginning and made the movie a reality. After all these years, finally seeing it up on the big screen was an unforgettable experience."
Many locals were on the set or behind the scenes. Todd Malkus, a Kenston High School art teacher, served as the film's art director. Mr. Malkus designed the prominently featured amulet that glows when it connects with the dead, along with the map, cross and other props.
"It was nice to finally see everything put together," Mr. Malkus said, "and to see everyone I had worked with two years ago. Working in close quarters for 12 to 15 hour days, you kind of become a family."
The movie begins with zombies filling the street against the forbidding prison backdrop. As grotesque as they appear, the zombies are harmless compared with such vampires as Vellich. That is a role that Andrew Divoff, known for many as the eye-patch wearing villain Mickhail Bakunin in television's "Lost," truly sinks his teeth into.
However, in real life, Mr. Divoff, who most recently portrayed the devious Ivan Sarnoff in last season's "CSI: Miami," is quite the protagonist. "I'm happy to support the Ohio film industry," he said while signing autographs after the screening. And it was great to see his two good friends, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Kurtzman, he said. "I'm very proud of the fledgling film industry here and I'm happy to support it."
That theme was echoed by Munson native Christopher Robichaud, a college friend of Mr. Douglas who was cast as Frank in both the original and new versions of "The Dead Matter."
"There's so much potential in Cleveland," said Mr. Robichaud, who's completing his doctorate in philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and teaching ethics at Harvard University. He said Boston reduced a lot of its taxes to encourage filmmaking. "Cleveland can do this. The weather in Boston is no better than in Cleveland."
Among film genres, horror is his definite favorite, said Mr. Robichaud, who enjoys watching such films regularly with his colleagues. "I love horror movies."
Sharing that interest to the core is "Big Chuck" Schodowski, one of Northeast Ohio's television icons. Mr. Douglas said he was inspired while growing up by Big Chuck's late night show, which ran from 1966 to 2007 and featured horror films.
"When Ed heard I retired, he asked me to do a cameo role and I was pleased," said Mr. Schodowski, who used Midnight Syndicate's compact discs in his spooky skits. "There was no way I'd say 'no.'"
Dick Dyszel, who was Big Chuck's counterpart in Washington, D.C., plays the teacher in the movie, to his delight. "I love it. It is old school, bump-in-the-night, gotcha horror."
Among the other cast members, Jason Carter, who rose to fame as the popular ranger Marcus Cole on the sci-fi series "Babylon 5," quipped that the "Dead Matter" role of Ian McCallister was a switch for him. "Historically I play the bad guy. Playing the good guy was bizarre."
The film's other "good guys," such as Gretchen, played by Sean Serino, were also on hand for the screening and autographs. Fresh from her role of Pris in Mr. Kurtzman's "The Rage," Gretchen is the grief-stricken young woman who tries to communicate with her dead brother.
"It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work," said Al Tuskes, who plays Ray, the supervisor. A Cleveland resident, he has acted in "The Rage" and "Skinned Deep" and does visual effects for Precinct 13 Entertainment.
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