Since Mansfield is increasingly recognized across America by paranormalists as a principle destination for ghost hunting, it is perhaps appropriate the city should be a nexus, as well, for other manifestations of the Undead. The evidence for this requires no special electromagnetic field detectors or ectoplasm monitors…it is already well documented in a feature film that is growing in status as a cult classic.
In the late summer of 2007 an independent film crew came to Mansfield to capture footage of Vampires on Main Street, and Zombies stalking the Reformatory. You don’t have to believe me—you can download it from Itunes. It’s called The Dead Matter.
On Aug. 23 of that year the cameras of Midnight Syndicate and Precinct 13 Entertainment were able to get (live) footage of a zombie whose roadkill scent wafted across Main Street mingled with the warm popcorn aura of Richland Carrousel Park.
The Dead Matter is a horror film in the classic movie tradition that effectively synthesizes time-honored Old World scary monster lore into modern culture. It uses familiar contemporary settings that lull the audience into a sense of normalcy until the chaos of ancient panic erupts.
Some of the scenes are so familiar, in fact, that anyone who knows downtown Mansfield will feel right at home.
The Bissman Building is an easily recognizable setting in the movie—even in eerie lighting with vampires crawling out of its cellar. There is a scene at the corner of Fifth and Walnut where the local landmark gingerbread-gable house perfectly sets the tone for Gothic Revival American horror.
But by far the most epic film capture of a Mansfield landmark in The Dead Matter is the masterful staging that takes place in the very beginning of the story. The scene at OSR is so massive in scope and visually striking that it is used in the film’s trailer. It seems to be exactly what the Reformatory was designed for and always intended to impart.
The Dead Matter was produced by Robert Kurtzman of Precinct 13 Entertainment in Crestline and, though much of his career involves high-powered Hollywood productions, he intended this project to use and showcase artists in Ohio. It was filmed in 24 days by a crew of 70 on a budget of $1.5 million, premiered in Cleveland in 2009, and was released on DVD in 2010.
It is amazing that the most peerless horror effects company in the US is located not in California but in Crestline, and it is an honor that the artists of Precinct 13 immortalized Mansfield by placing it in front of the world in a classic piece of horror genre film art.