Dread (2009)



Dread (click for larger image)Reviewed by Paul McCannibal

Starring Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Evans, Hanne Steen, Laura Donnelly, Jonathan Readwin

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi

Distributed by After Dark Films and Lionsgate Home Entertainment


A case study in fear could be used in a positive way. You could set up a camera and get a bunch of people to tell you what it is that really fills them with dread, that one thing that happened in their lives that gave them so much trauma that it hangs around their neck like an albatross.

Armed with such intimate glimpses into personal terrors, you might be able find a way to help people overcome such fears, or at the very least share the knowledge gained with others who have comparable phobias, maybe let a shrink offer a professional opinion, get some therapeutic value out of it ...

But then, you could always take that information and use it to fuck with people in extremely unpleasant ways ...

And that’s Dread in a nutshell. The story is about a superficially charming but deeply unpleasant fellow named Quaid, an artist who seems tormented by some kind of nightmarish childhood trauma. He’s a tortured soul who obsesses about finding his way into the heads of other people, finding out what their phobia is, and gleefully playing on it to distract himself from his otherwise omnipresent personal demons.

The initial setting is a university film class, an environment where an opportunist with a deranged master-plan like Quaid can smooth talk his way into getting collaborators, video equipment, and most importantly, victims. Like a lot of really scary people in the big bad world out there, Quaid is disarming at first and doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy. He’s a little over the top and way too intense sometimes, but he’s also very insightful when it comes to manipulating people through well-timed apologies and pandering, sincerely phrased compliments.

Quaid hooks up with a couple of students and devises the “show us your deepest fear” video project master plan with them, using other people in the university as the test subjects. Things start off promisingly enough, a good grade is earned, and everything seems to be hunky-dory. The only problem is that Quaid is getting a little weird and erratic and showing an increasingly violent and threatening side. Taped confessions don’t seem to be near enough for Quaid – he wants a lot more and is hell-bent on taking the project to the next level.

The tension builds as Quaid’s accomplices start to shy away and from there it all builds up to a messy, ugly climax. The last 3rd of this movie is pretty nasty and ruthless. It’s creatively executed mayhem though – aside from a nightmarish bloke wielding a big axe, this isn’t a stalk/slash horror film at all. We’re dealing with a very creative central psychopath and some horrific and emotionally disturbing methods of torment here.

This is a well made adaptation of the short story from Clive Barker's Books of Blood, which I haven’t read in around 20 years and can’t remember anymore. Apparently this movie builds on what was initially a very myopic narrative (and, notably, the only story in the Books of Blood that didn’t veer off into realms of monsters and the supernatural). There’s a whole new story and set of characters created around the original premise, and without referencing the original story beyond having a friend summarize it for me, I’d say Anthony DiBlasi’s screenplay did great job of coming up with a plot to build towards what the short story was about.

The ensemble cast did a very good job as a whole, but the standouts are definitely Shaun Evans as Quaid and Hanne Steen as Cheryl, a girl who falls victim to Quaid’s allure to devastating results. It really helps when you feel genuinely sorry for the victims in a horror film, but when you have an anti-hero like Quaid whose sadistic actions are creative enough that you look forward to what he’ll do next, you are kind of forced to be a hypocrite as a viewer. I’m sure DiBlasi was well aware of this when writing the screenplay. The result is a conflicting moral dynamic that works extremely well as an ongoing narrative hook.

Dread is a solid genre effort with great production values. It’s got a definite mean streak and it’s not the kind of film that lets the viewer off easy at the end, but it’s balanced out with characters who you get to know and actually give a shit about, so the toll of the experience is rewarding even if it’s shocking, upsetting, and not exactly what I’d class as cathartic. And who cares anyway – aren’t there enough “feel good” stories out there already?

Dread is well worth your time.

4 out of 5

Discuss Dread in our Dread Central forums!




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SuperSycko's picture

This movie blows and blows big. The story is retarded and depressing and I refuse to believe that nobody could stop Quaid. He is a loser who likes to torture other retards. The pace of the movie is terrible and will put you to sleep. The ending is terrible and stupid. How the hell does eating a dead body do anything for fear. I realize that they wanted a bleak look on life, but movies are supposed to entertain, not make me want to slit my wrists.-SuperSycko


Submitted by SuperSycko on Mon, 05/31/2010 - 7:50am.
FireRam's picture

YO! Um, maybe let someone know you have spoilers in your comment! Now,I saw someone complain about watching comments because someones coments included spoilers,but the thing is that movie came out in 2008,so that was a bit excessive seeing as though you'd think the movie has been out long enough to be able to speak freely about it. These 8 films to die for however,just came out on dvd and there are 8,so it's hard in todays world to find 16 hours (approximately) to watch movies. I am working on the films,I am three in. Saw Kill Theory,The Graves,and The Final. I liked ONLY Kill Theory so far. The Graves (IMO) sucked and The Final(IMO) was a major disappointment. Due to reviews and wrod of mouth the next two I wanted to see were Lake Mungo(feel free to share an opinion anyone) and Dread. You kind of gave away a huge part of the movie there bro. Sounds like the end really. Not a huge deal,just saying. On the other hand,maybe I should have known better than to read comments on a movie I haven't seen yet,but I did want to get a feel for others opinion,not thinking they'd actually give away parts of the movie. Again,just sayin'.

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Abashed the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is.


Submitted by FireRam on Mon, 05/31/2010 - 11:19am.
Barfneck's picture

LOved this movie. Redeeming after how terrible Books of Blood was on film. Strange that such a great story came from such a short piece of The Books of Blood (which wasn't a very strong story all in all.


Submitted by Barfneck on Fri, 03/26/2010 - 2:56am.
moderator Finally got a chance to see
Debi Moore's picture

Finally got a chance to see this as part of Horrorfest 4, and while I agree with a lot of the review, I was pretty disappointed in the final third of the film. Quaid's real story was telegraphed pretty early on, so no suspense involved there. I was hoping I was wrong about how it was all going to end, but no such luck. Unlike Paul, I found the Cheryl character to be the weakest link (both in storyline and acting-wise) and really couldn't have cared less about her. Plus, Evans' now you hear it, now you don't accent was a bit distracting. Rathbone and Donnelly were definitely my favorites of the cast. It was shot incredibly well (DiBlasi shows enormous promise) and the script mostly was very solid but could have used a few tweaks here and there to account for a few plot holes. So, overall I loved the first hour, but the final 30 minutes were just more torture porn wrapped up in pretty trappings. 3.5/5 is the highest I can go.


Submitted by Debi Moore on Tue, 02/02/2010 - 2:53pm.
LifeMi's picture

I get where you're coming from. There were some plot holes here and there towards the end, it's never genuinely scary or unpredictable and, like you, I have a vehement hatred of torture porn. But for me, the last 30 minutes were absolutely disturbing; I did care about Cheryl and thought she was important to the film. I agree that Rathbone was the best actor in the film. I would probably give it a 4 out of 5, maybe a 4.5 out of 5 just for how effective it was on me. And this is someone who's only been effected on that level by a small handful of movies (Evil Dead, Ring, Exorcist, etc.) One hell of a debut film for DiBlasi and I hope he goes far and shows guys like Bousman and Roth how it's done.


Submitted by LifeMi on Tue, 02/02/2010 - 11:20pm.
LifeMi's picture

I have seen Dread and it is FUCKED UP. Easily one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. Sure it has its flaws, but I'd be hard pressed to find a film in the last 15 years more disturbing than Dread. Highly Recommended.


Submitted by LifeMi on Sat, 01/30/2010 - 12:24am.

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