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Review: Dread

Dread
10.08.2009
7 10

This film was reviewed as part of Fantastic Fest

PLOT: Stephen Grace is studying film when he meets the mysterious Quaid who is full of strange ideas about fear. Quaid convinces Stephen to make his thesis project a study in dread by recording peoples fears on camera. What Stephen doesn't know is Quaid has some major issues stemming from a past event that has left him fearful for his entire life. As the project continues, Stephen and his partner Cheryl begin to suspect Quaid has other motivations beyond helping with a school project.

REVIEW: Dread is, at times, a frustrating film. The biggest issue in terms of story is the pace of the storyline. The first act is filled with great performances and interesting ideas. There's a genuine sense of curiosity built and there's fun in wondering where the film is going. The third act is full of the evil, horror and splatter we have come to expect from Clive Barker adaptations. It all comes together in an interesting and intense way. However, it's the second act, the bridge between, that holds the problems.

If the first act is the psychological setup and the third the physical payoff, the middle should provide a smooth,logical transition between the two. Unfortunately in the case of DREAD, the second act does not connect the dots very well. Character motivations are suspect as in the case where one character is relieved of his watch with force by someone he has only met days prior. Instead of reacting in a way normal people would (as in ending the relationship there), this character continues to endure this and other acts not becoming of a solid friendship. There's a few of these moments where the audience is left to question why the characters still associate with another and continue with the project after such acts. The obvious answer is that the story needs to move along; it's just a shame it must do so at the expense of logic.

Through this curiosity of a middle act, though, there is still a decent level of audience engagement. There's a sense of forthcoming horror and when there is payoff it is engaging and visceral. There is a final payoff in the last minutes of the film by way of narration that I can only guess is lifted directly from Barker's short story. This bit of narration easily ties up loose ends and adds a bit of reason to the second act. One can't help but wonder, though, if the information and ideas presented in the final moments could not have been better incorporated into the narrative itself. I suspect if it had been this film would have the potential to be a minor sleeper classic.

The direction by first time writer, director Anthony DiBlasi shows a good bit of promise. An expertly crafted and filmed scene involving the murder of a family makes one hope that one day DiBlasi will tackle a straight up horror film full of cleverly directed death sequences. Aside from second act script problems already mentioned, the story moves along at a decent pace and never completely implodes. Also, the bizarre character motivations mentioned before take away a bit from the impact of the story, but the strong performances all around add an air of credibility. Again, it's a tribute to the director (and, of course, the cast) that these characters never become completely ridiculous on screen.

I have not read the short story from which this film was adapted. DREAD the movie, however, judged on its own merits is a better than average horror flick and definitely better than many Clive Barker labeled movies. With an interesting premise that eventually leads to the blood soaked deprivation any Barker loving horror fan looks forward to, the film mostly succeeds. While not primed for a wide theatrical success, this should be a more than modest DVD hit. Director DiBlasi, if he keeps up the flair seen in several parts of this film and learns from a few faults in his first script, should go on to enjoy a fine horror directing career.

RATING: 7/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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