UK (dir. Anthony DiBlasi)
Cast: Carl McCrystal, Elissa Dowling, Eva Wyrwal, Hanne Steen, Jackson Rathbone, Jonathan Readwin , Laura Donnelly , Paloma Faith , Shaun Evans , Vivian Gray , Kirean Murphy , Zoe Stollery
Synopsis: The film tells the story of three students who decide to study people’s fears for a video documentary college class. Initially they simply interview their subjects but then one of the students progresses to setting up situations where the subjects are forced to confront their fears.
Review: The idea behind “Dread” captivated my interest almost immediately. I like when films play around with the concept of people’s specific fears, and “Dread” is a movie which does pretty much just that. The film is based on a Clive Barker story, which at first led me to suspect that there would be some sort of supernatural explanation tacked on to the end of the film to explain the preceding events (as was the case with “The Midnight Meat Train”). Fortunately that wasn’t the case. The film is solidly grounded in reality with the exception of certain psychological breakdown parts where characters lose their grip on reality due to past psychological traumas. The movie is well executed and with the exception of a few minor flaws, it’s an entertaining and fairly horrific horror film.
The only major, and big name actor in this film, and possibly the main selling feature, is Jackson Rathbone (who you may or may not recognize from, *sigh*, the “Twilight” films. Excitingly enough, Rathbone gets to actually talk and do stuff in this movie, something he was restricted from being able to do in the “Twilight” films due to his role as an auxiliary vampire character. Unfortunately, he constantly speaks as though his upper lip is frozen, fortunately, he’s a severely attractive man with a unique look and a great actor to boot. Also on the plus side, he shares the main character role with another equally attractive and just as talented actor, Shaun Evans (why isn’t this guy in more movies?!), who plays the deliciously vicious “bad guy”.
Mmmmm… Jackson Rathbone…
Hot guys aside, “Dread” has a great story at its heart. Two new friends, Stephen (Rathbone) and Quaid (Evans), work on a thesis project involving people’s fears (coolest thesis project ever?). They get bored of hearing all the boring, generic fears from their interviewees (i.e. clowns, spiders, the dark, etc.) and feel like the project is going nowhere until one of their collaborators reveals her own personal fear of meat (she was raped by her father after he came home from working at a meat packing plant, and the smell of meat sets off all those old painful memories). Quaid’s personal fear stems from the brutal killing of his parents by a random, axe-wielding maniac when he was a child. Stephen’s fear isn’t as gory or nasty: he fears being in cars after the death of his brother in an automobile accident. I kind of felt as though Stephen’s fear could have been a little more exotic than just being afraid of motorized vehicles. Plus, is his fear even justified? He wasn’t even directly involved in the car accident that killed his brother.
There’s an amazing amount of charater development in this film, especially considering there are four characters (could have easily even been five, if you include the first victim of Quaid’s fear study rampage) who are fully drawn out. When you see a lot of horror movies where there isn’t even character development in the lead it’s refreshing to see a movie where not one, but four characters are given backgrounds and the chance to develop throughout the course of the film. There was also no supernatural bullshit to explain away the last half of the film, which I was particularly pleased with.
Besides the surprising amount of, and attention to, character development, the music in this film was superb. Every song felt like something that I, or someone like me, would pick. It was essentially the ultimate “thinking man’s” horror movie soundtrack with songs from Silverson Pickups, M83, We Are Scientists etc. None of that power pop music that somehow finds itself on horror movie soundtracks aimed at that late teens/early 20s age group. This was a mature, well thought-out soundtrack that someone clearly picked with the movie’s premise in mind as well as the obvious need to appeal to an audience of horror movie fans who are more than likely in the 20-30 age group, and not pre-teens who are keen on hearing some happy go-lucky pop music on the background of their horror movie soundtrack (or just some dark and ominous filler music).
I was pretty well shocked to learn that “Dread” was written and directed by a first-timer, Anthony DiBlasi. I have to admit, this is a damn good first movie. It seems DiBlasi has a penchant for Clive Barker adaptations considering he produced “The Midnight Meat Train” and is attached to the 2011 remake of “Hellraiser”. I’ll be excited to see his take on “Hellraiser” if he is in fact the director or writer. Hell, I’ll be excited to see any other Clive Barker adaptations he might take on in the future. “Dread” is a great movie to check out, and it has a very malicious unexpected ending that firmly places it in the best of the After Dark Horrorfest 4.