In my opinion one of the signs of a good film is if it stays with you when you have left the auditorium/turned off the television. Dread is one of these films, it leaves you with a really unsettled feeling which stays with you long after the film ends. This is not one for horror lite fans – it’s not overly gruesome in the style of some of the Splat Pack movies, but it carries with a a lingering intensity. Unlike many adaptations of novels/short stories (it is based on Clive Barker’s Dread from Books of Blood: Volume II), the director Anthony DiBlasi managed to preserve the tenor of the original story and therefore offers up a film which is not only well put together and technically slick but also intelligent.
***The following may contain spoilers***
Jackson Rathbone plays a quiet, unobtrusive, slightly boring, film student Stephen Grace who is captivated by a charismatic new friend Quaid (Shaun Evans). Quaid suggests that for Stephen’s thesis they do a study into fear and along with Cheryl (Hanne Steen), an editor from Stephen’s film class they start to interview subjects about their deepest darkest fears. When Quaid is unsatisfied with the results they turn the camera upon themselves, Stephen doesn’t think he is overly afraid of anything, Cheryl admits that her vegetarianism stems from abuse she suffered at the hands of her father as a child. Quaid, the one with possibly the darkest secret remains silent. As a child he witnessed his parents die at the hands of an axe wielding stranger who was never caught and lives in constant fear. He thinks that revealing the roots of others fears will be cathartic but it is quite the opposite, the atmosphere of dread created by the project only drives him deeper into his paranoia.
The brilliant thing about Dread is that you know that the big bad is coming, you can see it a mile off but you still can’t wait for it to happen, you want to know and when it does arrive things only get more interesting. I know its a cliche but it really is a roller coaster ride, the film builds and builds and when it hits it crescendo it has entirely sucked you in. It has a really rich multi-layered storyline so the violence rather than being just for spectacle is integral to the story and carries with it a realism which negates the comedic reaction that filmic violence often inspires.