Dread: After Dark Horrorfest 4
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Stephen (Jackson Rathbone, the TWILIGHT saga) and Cheryl are college students making a documentary about what people dread in life. But they have no idea that their partner, Quaid, witnessed his parents being murdered by an axe-wielding lunatic and wants to make others experience his own personal horror. This stylish horror/thriller is produced by Clive Barker, the Godfather of modern horror/fantasy and the creator of the HELLRAISER and CANDYMAN series.
Two very different horror icons--author Clive Barker and the Twilight saga, as represented by star Jackson Rathbone--are the main sources of appeal for Dread, a grimly atmospheric psycho thriller based on one of Barker's short stories. Rathbone is a retiring young student who joins a research team working on a documentary about fear. One of the number, Quaid (Shaun Evans), has an intimate association with the emotion, having seen his parents butchered while very young, and his involvement in the project turns deeply personal--and malevolent--as he attempts to inflict his own torment on his partners. Director Anthony DiBlasi, who produced one admirable Barker adaptation--The Midnight Meat Train--and two unfortunate attempts in The Plague and Book of Blood, does well in achieving the level of visceral horror in Barker's work, but he stumbles in creating characters with enough dimension to warrant interest for the length of a feature (none of the actors can help much in this department, either, especially Evans, who's in over his head as Quaid). The result is occasionally disturbing but not more engaging than most standard-issue horror--a label that one would never apply to Barker and his fiction. The DVD, which is part of the fourth After Dark Horrorfest series, includes an inconsequential making-of featurette and a battery of deleted scenes; more interesting is a conversation with Barker, who served as one of the producers on Dread, and DiBlasi. --Paul Gaita
A conversation with Clive Barker and director Anthony DiBlasi
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The story focuses on three troubled souls: Stephen (Jackson Rathbone) lost his older brother to a car accident, Quaid (Shaun Evans) witnessed the brutal murder of his parents, and Cheryl (Hanne Steen) was abused by her father. These three film students with three haunted pasts come together to pursue an academic film study of fear for a class project designed to interview subjects and plumb their way to the root of how their fears affect them.
At some point this "study" becomes unsatisfying for one of the filmmakers, who finds the need to push the project beyond any reasonable (or sane) level. Past fear subjects are revisited and forced to relive and/or confront their debilitating fear.
Vivid camerawork accompanied by visceral, creatively approahced gore serve us well, adding much needed dimension to the oft-stale genre. A broad range of effective lighting techniques, color correction and innovative gore effects sporadically litter this film with pleasant surprises. Pleasant in hindsight, that is, since these scenes are often shocking when first encountered. Almost reminiscent of Flatliners (1990), some psychological-hallucinogenic self-torment complements harmful situations imposed by more tangible antagonists.
The scenes that best illustrate such carefully shot images are what I'll call "the stripper scene" and "the steak." They utilize effects (including solid sound-editing/mixing) and create tones that are not necessarily ground-breaking in uniqueness, but they're done so well overall that these scenes really stuck with me.
The writing is nothing special, but the actors are all quite convincing. I only wish that more time was dedicated to developing the plot from "conducting a film study" to "becoming obsessed with human dread" before the story flew off the hinges in the third act. I enjoyed the ending. I just would have enjoyed a more gradual descent into madness on the parts of both the film students and their subjects.
Overall I was quite impressed and would recommend this to fans of the "difficult to watch" flavors of horror. Anyone in need of more convincing should search for "Dread" on r/Horror (Reddit). There have been many discussions about this film--just be wary of the spoiler-rich waters in Reddit's tides.
If you want to see good Clive Barker adaptations watch "Hellraiser", "Candyman" and "The Midnight Meat Train". All stayed true to the characters and expanded the story in a way that made it more compelling. And yes, I have read the Hellbound Heart "Hellraise" the short story The Forbiden "Candyman", The Midnight Meat Train and Dread.
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