Dread (2009)

Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Starring: Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Evans, Hanne Steen, Laura Donnelly
Certificate: 18
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD Release date: 29 March 2010

The adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story Dread, taken from the ‘Books of Blood’ collection released way back in 1984, is one of the best horror films to find its way onto DVD this year.  After last year’s reasonable effort Midnight Meat Train – featuring the questionable choice of Vinnie Jones as the serial killer known simply as The Subway Butcher – Dread has taken the Clive Barker brand of horror adaptation to a whole new level.

Stephen Grace (Rathbone) is a Film Studies student looking for a juicy topic to write his thesis on. After a late night chance encounter, Stephen befriends Quaid (Evans) who suggests that Stephen researches fear. Unfortunately for Stephen, Quaid is troubled by his own past which is understandable given his Mother and Father were axed up in front of him when he was just six years old. What starts off as a school project where Stephen, his classmate Cheryl (Steen) and Quaid interview students around the University as they divulge their deepest fears, turns into something a little more sinister. In a bid to detract from his own personal demons Quaid begins obsessing over the fear study, bursting into a fit of rage if anybody dare suggest that this is just a school project. Quaid’s temperamental character who is played excellently by Shaun Evans always wants to push the fear project further and further, fantasising over the prospect of taking things to the next level.

Generally horror films set around schools, colleges or universities have annoying, stereotypical characters that the viewer cannot wait to see butchered and eviscerated in the most depraved and sickening manner possible. Dread is the exception, as these characters are actually quite likeable and human. They’re not simply stereotypes hoping to get laid, get high or get some other sort of quick gratification that will ultimately lead to disappointment and the occasional STD. Anthony DiBlasi presents us with characters that we actually quite like and we really don’t want to see hurt. Unfortunately these characters seem to bring it on themselves with ill advised decisions and bad judgement calls. This happens time and time again for loveable Abby (Donnelly), a girl with a huge birthmark down the right side of her body. Laura Donnelly puts on a brilliant performance here as it is all done in impeccably good taste – so many others could have made this look like a bad, offensive joke.

Dread really plays on the fears of the characters and may tap into a few fears of the viewer watching at home. Whilst Dread is a great horror film, it certainly isn’t a pleasant experience and you will find yourself feeling genuinely uncomfortable throughout. Admittedly it’s not as depraved and nihilistic as Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, a film only worth watching if you’re contemplating killing yourself and need that final push or if you’re curious as to what it looks like when a woman cuts off her clitoris with a pair of scissors, but Dread certainly has its moments. If you’re fed up of the cliché Hollywood horror that’s being churned out at the moment and don’t want to be dragged along to the cinema to watch yet another abysmal zombie video game cash-in then a night in with Dread may be just what you’re after. Just make sure you don’t do a Quaid and take watching it to the next level…

7/10

M WILSON

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