2010 After Dark Horrorfest: Dread (2009)
Here is the second pre-release review for the upcoming After Dark Horrorfest 4 (as of this writing the movies are being released at the end of March 2010). I haven’t been subtle in what I think about most Horrorfest flicks. In my review of the only one I’ve so far liked, Mulberry Street, I mentioned that I will keep watching them with the hopes of finding another gem. Well I’ve found another gem and its one strong-ass fucking movie!!
Dread is the third flick in what is being called “The Books of Blood movie franchise.” The Books of Blood are, of course, six volumes of short horror stories written by Clive Barker which were published between 1984 to 1985. These were an overnight success that launched Barker’s career. Several of these stories have already been made into films: Rawhead Rex (1986), The Forbidden (1992 as Candyman), The Last Illusion (1995 as Lord of Illusions), The Body Politic (1997 as Quicksilver Highway), The Midnight Meat Train (2008), and The Book of Blood and On Jerusalem Street were combined to make the film Book of Blood (2008). Most were pretty decent films, but the ones that were bad were very bad (looking at you Book of Blood).
So when I heard Dread was being made and it was gonna be part of the After Dark Horrorfest my hopes sank like a stone. Boy was I wrong. This is a brilliantly directed, well-acted, atmospheric story that will grab your interest in the first few seconds and not let you go. At the end of the day this is the story about a man fighting his personal demons and who lets those demons overcome him. College students Stephen, the film major, and Quaid, an art major, (played by Jackson Rathbone and Shaun Evans respectively) team up to work on their senior projects. Their topic is dread and they want to explore what people really fear the most (or as they call it, “Touching the beast”). Stephen hasn’t driven a car for years ever since his brother was killed in a drunk driving accident and Quaid is constantly battling his memories of watching his parents killed by an axe murdered when he was six years old. The thesis is Quaid’s idea and he’s immediately obsessed with the topic. Little by little his obsession overtakes him until ultimately he crosses the line.
This is one fantastic movie people. Director Anthony DiBlasi (who also wrote the screenplay) really takes his time developing these characters and plot. For the first half of the movie I had no idea where this film was going but knew it was creeping its way into some dark territory (that is so refreshing; I can usually tell exactly where a movie is going within the first ten minutes of watching it). When Quaid, who is haunted with nightmarish visions of his parent’s murders, dumps his meds down the drain, you know things aren’t gonna turn out well for anyone involved. Rounding out the cast is Hanne Steen as Abby, who has a hideous birthmark on the right side of her body from her face down to her toes, and Laura Donnelly as Cheryl, who is helping edit the project and had her own “dreadful” story to tell. Every character here is flawed and battles their own personal demons and DiBlasi does a phenomenal job of developing them so we really care about their fates. DiBlasi also does something unique here: He actually makes “dread” a character. I’m not talking about a physical character; it’s more like a presence throughout the film. “Dread” becomes like a ghost who you know is lurking around each corner and is inside the head of each character.
DiBlasi’s camera work and angles reminded me of a young Dario Argento who experimented a lot with the camera as he was trying to find his style. There are a few scenes that are both horrific and beautiful. Dread also has a very cool washed out look to it that adds to the atmosphere. And considering this is DiBlasi’s first time directing he is definitely someone you wanna keep your eye on!! But as good as DiBlasi is behind the camera (DiBlasi also served as producer on 2008’s The Midnight Meat Train and Book of Blood) if he didn’t get strong performances out of his actors then all would’ve been lost. We get some truly solid chops out of our four main characters. There wasn’t a hint of overacting or pandering to the camera. Are you SURE this is an After Dark Horrorfest entry??
As the film progresses, Quaid keeps pushing his thesis further and further. He starts off with examining and exposing what people truly fear and then crosses the line to actually exploiting those fears. There is some well-done gore here that aids and helps to solidify the story. There’s a few cringe-inducing moments and even a scene that reminded me of my favorite movie of the previous decade, Martyrs (you’ll know it when you see it). Now that says something. But all the gore here is what I call “situational”. We don’t get gore simply for gore’s sake (and by now you know I don’t have a problem with that either); the gore is intricately connected to the situations the characters find themselves in. This makes the gore contribute to the horror and is very effective.
Whenever I see a Horrorfest flick that I like and think is a strong film I need to step back and ask myself, “Did I think it was a strong movie compared to the other crappy Horrorfest flicks, or is it a solid movie by any standards?” As far as Dread is concerned this is a strong, solid movie in its own right; Horrorfest or not. Definitely don’t miss this one!!
*** As of the writing of this review Anthony DiBlasi is listed as the director of the upcoming Hellraiser remake. I’m not crazy about that classic being remade, but after watching what he did in Dread I believe he’s a great choice and will be someone who can capture the tone and atmosphere of Hellraiser perfectly. We’ll see.
Director: Anthony DiBlasi (and screenwriter)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5.5 out of 10 skulls (not a lot, but what there was was very effective)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer