Movie Number– 104
Title– Dread (2009)
Running Time– 94 minutes
Director– Anthony DiBlasi
Writer– Anthony DiBlasi, Clive Barker (short story)
Starring– Jackson Rathborne, Shaun Evans, Hanne Steen, Laura Donnelly
Clive Barker is arguably known best for his Books of Blood short story collection. First published back in 1987, this collection put Barker on the map as the next big name in the horror genre. Barker hasn’t disappointed (for the most part), and has delivered excellent horror stories ever since. One of the short stories in this collection is entitled Dread, and it is notable because it is one of the only stories Clive Barker has written that lacks the paranormal. Upon watching the DVD extras of Dread, I learned that this is the main reason that writer/director Anthony DiBlasi decided to adapt this short story to the big screen. Book adaptations are hit and miss, and if I have read the story first I generally feel betrayed when the movie strays from what the author wrote. Though DiBlasi strays from the original source quite often, he has given the After Dark Horrorfest 4 collection one of it’s finest films.
Stephen Grace – a film student in the movie, but an English student in the short story – happens upon Quaid (who is a bit older than Stephen) one evening while smoking outside of his required philosophy class. The two get to talking, and eventually become friendly. Immediately, Quaid brings up his fascination/obsession with dread – with what people fear – and this evolves into Quaid asking Stephen to join him in a study on dread, and convinces him to go along with this study by telling him that it can be Stephen’s thesis project. Stephen pulls Cheryl into the project to act as editor of the film, and the trio is set. Quaid does his best to learn what scares the subjects he interviews, and even better to learn what scares Stephen and Cheryl. Quaid takes advantage of this, and what follows is a sickening, tense, psychological thriller that Clive Barker is very proud of (the DVD extras contain an interview with the Barker and DiBlasi that reveals a lot about the film…and the fact that Barker wasn’t a fan of Transformers 2).
Dread first that caught my eye because Jackson Rathborne (playing Stephen) was on the cover. Rathborne plays Jasper in the Twilight Saga films. I thought he did a very nice job in Twilight Saga: Eclipse, but was even better here. He is a very natural actor. There were points where his “actor tricks” popped up, only noticing because they were the same ones that popped up in the Twilight Saga, but overall he is a strong actor that I will look out for in the future. It’s nice to see talent behind the looks because that is so rare in Hollywood these days. Supporting Rathborne, Shaun Evans (playing Quaid) is very effective, though he is a bit heavy-handed at points. This was nice casting because he has the eyes that anyone playing Quaid needs: dangerously trusting. The two female leads were great, even if one (Abbey, played by Laura Donnelly) was never in the short story at all. The two female leads were able to pull off their heavy parts with precision, and Cheryl was exactly how I imagined her to be while reading the short story.
Director and writer DiBlasi used a range of different cinematic tricks, and Alfred Hitchcock has to be an influence in his work because there were a few (excellent) shots that were very Hitchcockian. The gore was realistic and helped to tell the story that Barker must have envisioned. The real shocker in this film, though, was the script. Usually when a I watch a film adapted from a book, I find that the movie oversimplifies things way too much. Dread was almost the complete opposite: it over explained a lot of things that were left unclear in the short story. Because DiBlasi was making a movie, however, and not a short story or novel, I understand why he made these choices. The changes made by DiBlasi made Stephen and Cheryl more human and likable, so viewers invest more into them. A problem with this, though, is that the opposite is true of Quaid. I found Quaid to be less human in the movie, and he lost some of his terror because of it. One reason I loved the short story was because Barker makes Quaid natural and realistic, which makes him terrifying. This is one of the shortcomings of the film, but that should not sway any viewers away, and if one hasn’t read the story, this will most likely be a moot point anyhow.
It should come to no surprise at this point when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed Dread, and it’s going to take a lot to top this film as the best of After Dark Horrorfest 4. The movie was thought-provoking, gory, sexy, enthralling, and a pretty darn good book adaptation to boot. It is not for the feint of heart, though, and at one point I felt my stomach churning in disgust. There is a lot more sex and nudity than in the short story, but I will rarely complain about that. Dread is a great alternative to the dumbed down horror movies that most have come to expect, and for that alone, it gets my highest recommendation.