Dread (2009)

Adapted from Clive Barkers short story and directed by Anthony DiBlasi, who also produced this title, Book Of Blood and Midnight Meat Train as well as recently being linked to the proposed Hellraiser remake, Dread is a taut, incredibly well acted, well-directed piece of psychological horror.

After an evening lecture, the sensitive Stephen meets the enigmatic Quaid. A friendship is tentatively formed and the two decide to make a film together, for Stephen’s thesis, taking their inspiration from Kinsey’s sex studies but instead focusing on people’s deepest, darkest fears and the origin of dread. They enlist Stephen’s classmate and crush Cheryl to edit the project and the three set about interviewing strangers in order to “chase the beast” and discover what motivates people’s fears and phobias. Initially disappointed with the results, the troubled Quaid, haunted by nightmares of his tragic past, takes things a step further and Stephen is forced to step outside of his meticulously mapped out life and stare down his own demons. As Quaid’s behaviour becomes more erratic, he goes to increasingly extreme lengths to keep the project alive and to conquer his own fears in the process.

Filmed between Boston, USA and Surrey, UK, Dread stars almost an entire cast of unknown Brits, with the exception of leading man Jackson Rathbone (going some way to eradicating the memory of his part in the deplorable Twilight movies). Everyone involved does a sterling job in their respective roles with particular mention going to the central trio (Rathbone, Shaun Evans and Hanne Steen), as well as Laura Donnelly, who plays the role of a girl whose birthmark covers half her body, with an assured sincerity and quiet vulnerability.

Evans is a revelation, his American accent wavering only very occasionally, he is able to look wide eyed and innocent in one shot and psychopathic the next, always managing to exude a dangerous charisma that makes him a believable force to be reckoned with.

The direction is a mixed bag, given DiBlasi’s involvement in so much of the recent Clive Barker output, he is obviously a man with a deep love of the source material and while some of the direction is pretty standard stuff, other moments are visually stunning. Special mention has to go to a couple of inspired axe-eye view shots and some low angles with incredible depth of field, assisting the movie in being truly memorable. It’s also testament to his talent as a director that he was able to cultivate such startlingly real performances from his young cast.

Without the need for buckets of gore or the inclusion of some tired torture porn (although there are certainly elements of torture), Dread is a superbly crafted tale of the very roots of fear and manages to be both disturbing and utterly compelling. Hinged largely on the excellent performances of its cast, it also has a fantastic soundtrack, some genuinely shocking moments and a plausible script written by DiBlasi. The pacing is near perfect as it never slows down to a crawl but still allows its characters room to breathe whilst ramping up some serious tension. It’s a standout piece that’s miles away from the usual fare that centres around college students. Do yourself a favour and watch it.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

3 Comments on “Dread”

  1. Aaron Gillott says:

    I’ve definitely been reticent to watch this, I hadn’t been too keen on “Midnight Meat Train” or “Book of Blood”, but I’m more optimistic about this now after reading your review, Sarah, sounds promising.

  2. tor2600 says:

    Great review, I had a chance to see Dread in theaters, it was a lot better than I expected.
    Aaron, Book of blood wasn’t that good, Midnight Meat Train was better, and Dread was definitely my favorite.

  3. Sarah Law says:

    When I watched it the first time, I was a little worried that my low expectations had clouded my judgement. Luckily, it stood up just as well to a second viewing.

    I completely agree about Book of Blood and Midnight Meat Train, both were just ok but lacking, whereas Dread was much more solid.

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