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Clive Barker's Dread (2009)
9th Mar 10
Students undertake a project to study people's fears with dramatic consequences.
Review Clive Barker's Dread was showcased at last year's London Frightfest and despite the brand name that Barker has become and the promise that brings with it Dread's opening scenes felt cliched and the characters unlikeable. It also felt obvious how the story would play out so there seemed little point sitting through it so this reviewer upped and left.
Faced with it again leading up to its DVD/Blu Ray release and aiming to view it through less jaded eyes it comes as a big disappointment to announce that this baby just doesn't deliver. From the moment students begin opening up to the main character's camera and talking about their fears you just KNOW that for some what they are opening up about will come back and haunt them later in the movie. Where's the surprises? The new spin?
Barker's short story upon which this is based originates from his Books of Blood series (which also spat out the much better Candyman) and being a short story it needs good hands to stretch it out for the big screen treatment. Writer/director Anthony Diblasi is not up to the job. Rather than create characters we can empathise with he appears more fascinated with making them as unappealing as possible. Instead of creating any mystery or shocks he signposts every single thing to the point you want to give up watching.
Dread had been sitting as a possible project for biggie studio Twentieth Century Fox for sometime. They saw potential in the material but wanted to fashion their own yarn from it and in the process make it more accessible to a PG-13 audience.
First-time director Diblasi obviously felt that it had to be more hardcore when he got his hands on it, which is ironic given that the marketing pitch centres on letting renters/buyers know that Jackson Rathbone is it in. Who? EXACTLY! An actor better known to the audience Twentieth Century Fox were aiming to pitch Dread at. People that like their horror pitched at the right levels aren't gonna be suckered in because Rathbone is in that teenage vampire saga Twilight.
Jackson Rathbone stars as Stephen Grace a film student at Boston College. He gets chatting to Quaid (Shaun Evans) about doing a study on people's fears and rope in their colleague Cheryl (Hanne Steene). They film each student who is willing enough to gabble about their innermost fears but for Quaid this is feeling superficial. He wants the study to go further and in doing so things take a turn for the worst.
Quite why Stephen and Cheryl would want to team up with someone like Quaid, whom obviously has MAJOR issues and is loathsome from the beginning is never really clear. Most people have that little sixth sense thing going on whereby they suss that someone is slightly cuckoo. This is a quality that seems to have bypassed the saner of the lead characters.
Elsewhere the story doesn't so much as unfold as plod along with no build up, no tension and an overriding feeling that this has all been done before and much better. Dread plays like the bastard child of Gossip and sex, lies and videotape and never really truly explores the subject that the three leads are investigating.
Ironically for a movie called Dread there isn't any. As mentioned earlier in the review everything is signposted and nothing comes as a shock or surprise. For example the most sympathetic character in the film, Abby (Laura Donnelly), Stephen's co-worker is very conscious of a birthmark she has that covers most of her body. The minute we meet her Diblasi might just have well stuck a huge pointing finger above her head with the word 'victim' emblazoned upon it, his direction all so transparent. Victims should come as a surprise not be spelt out to us.
Dread producer Joe Daley put out the much better Midnight Meat Train and it's strongly recommended that you fancy a fix of some decent Clive Barker celluloid that you pick that up at your local Blockbuster rather than get suckered in by this offering.