It’s an often heard story when you work in the film industry that it can take just one moment to change your life completely. Such is the case for writer/director/producer Anthony DiBlasi.
After only one meeting he took with visionary horror writer/director/artist Clive Barker, he found himself immediately employed with one of the most legendary voices in the genre. Their longstanding collaborations would lead to DiBlasi helming his first feature film, Dread (review here), which is part of After Dark’s HorrorFest 4 film festival that kicked off this weekend.
DiBlasi said, “I met with Clive and everything just clicked. When I left that day and was walking out of the building, I came to the realization that I just had probably the most important meeting of my life. We’re both artists so we were speaking the same language practically.”
“Clive is a very specific brand of horror – it’s very sexual, and he taps into a lot of different senses. We both share the goal to create very personal horror stories and exploring taboo subject matter. We have the same twisted sensibilities so adapting his work comes naturally to me,” DiBlasi added.
Over several years DiBlasi worked on adapting Barker’s work that had been purchased by several large studios. It was during that time he realized that none of the properties were really ever going to go anywhere, let alone in a way that would honor Barker’s source material.
Although DiBlasi originally worked on adapting Barker’s short story Dread for a major studio, when that didn’t come to fruition, he decided to continue adapting the story into a feature-length script on his own terms.
From there, the rest was history.
“Dread was the quickest turnaround I’ve ever had,” explained DiBlasi. “It was one year from when I started the script until when the film was completed. Since I had been a producer on the project when it was still at a major studio, I knew the material very well. I think that was key in everything moving so fast because I always knew what I wanted Dread to be.”
DiBlasi ended up shooting a 104-page script for Dread in just 28 days. When DiBlasi completed his first cut of the film, it clocked in at a whopping two hours and 40 minutes. After the director went back and honed his vision, Dread was down to a much more manageable 94 minutes.
DiBlasi said, “It was easy for me to cut the film down so much because I’ve been working on the producing side for so long. As a producer, I don’t really hold onto anything as precious so when I am editing, I just have to keep the end in sight. You can’t be self-indulgent when you’re trying to tell a story.”
“With Dread we’re going to have some of my favorite deleted scenes on the DVD. It’s nice to be able to put two- to three-minute scenes on it just because you love them, even if they don’t work for the overall movie. That’s the best part of cutting an hour out of your movie – you get to give that to fans in an entirely different medium than just a feature film,” DiBlasi added.
I asked the director to discuss if there was anything he filmed for Dread that wouldn’t even make it to the DVD release. Turns out, there is one scene DiBlasi won’t be releasing for fans.
“There was one scene that I really loved that isn’t in the movie and won’t be on the DVD,” explained DiBlasi. “It was with Laura Donnelly, who plays Abby in Dread. Her character does something to herself when she’s at a breaking point in the film where she’s been really hurt but is still defiant about it. Her character is always closed off and covered up, so she decides to go to this rock club in a skimpy dress, gets wasted, takes pills, and let’s guys grope at her. After she comes back from that, she realizes she feels even worse about herself so she decides to hurt herself.”
“It’s a very character driven moment, but in a genre film, I don’t think people will miss it. The scene was in the very last draft of the script and the edit of the movie until the very last moment, but I decided to go ahead and cut it out. In the test screening version it caused some confusion so I knew it was best to just edit it out altogether for the sake of the overall story,” DiBlasi added.
With all that being said, I wanted to find out from DiBlasi how faithful he was to Barker’s source material. The director spoke about some of the changes he made to flesh out the short story more for the film version.
“What I’ve altered the most is the lead character, Stephen Grace (played by Jackson Rathbone),” explained DiBlasi. “I changed his dread from what it was in the book and gave his to a secondary character. I just didn’t want the end of the short story to be the end of the movie. It wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.”
“In my opinion the film version of Dread is very faithful to what Clive wrote. If you read the short story before you go see the movie, you will see that I’ve kept much of the core story in the movie but created characters, too, that weren’t originally included to create a richer story for the big screen,” DiBlasi added.
Generally speaking, if you are into horror films, you have an idea of what scares or frightens you. What I asked DiBlasi to talk about was where dread comes from and how it differs from the idea of fear.
DiBlasi said, “The longer you wait to face your fear, that’s the definition of dread. For example, in the movie there is a girl who is afraid of meat so she ends up locked in a room for days with just a piece of meat in front of her. What was what was so smart on Clive’s part is that with the definition of dread, it’s not just about her eating the piece of meat. It’s when she’s locked away for five or six days with just that piece of meat, and when it comes time to actually eat the meat because she has to stay alive, it’s rotted and covered with maggots.”
“So now the physical aspect of her dread has manifested and she realizes her life is in danger. No one is holding a gun to her head or threatening to chop her into pieces to eat that meat, but she knows her very life depends on it,” DiBlasi added.
With any adaptation of literature, especially someone whose storytelling is as vivid as Barker’s, fans are generally nervous when it comes time for the story to take the leap from the pages of a book to the big screen. DiBlasi was quick to ease the fans’ fears for his adaptation of Dread.
“I knew when I tackled the adaptation that Clive has a very rabid fan base so I knew that people will either love or hate what I’ve done,” explained DiBlasi. “There are only two people I go out trying to please when I am doing a project – and that’s me and that’s Clive. If Clive’s happy at the end of the day, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”
“I always knew what kind of movie I wanted to make with Dread and that’s exactly the movie I made. The most important thing Clive has ever taught me was to do whatever the hell I want, and I am very happy with the way everything turned out,” DiBlasi added.
Dread is in theatres right now. This is one flick you should make it your business to see.
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