Dread (2009)

MAY 5, 2009


In a way, the genre tagging that I do is a bit of a disservice to some films. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with saying Halloween is a slasher or Cloverfield is a monster movie, but there are some films that don’t easily fit into such categories. Maybe I should invent a new tag simply called “TRUE HORROR”. If so, Anthony DiBlasi’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s Dread would certainly qualify.

The psychological aspects are not unfounded though. One of the main characters constantly sees visions of the man who murdered his parents, despite the fact that the guy isn’t there (one of the movie’s greatest strengths is that it doesn’t needlessly try to shoehorn the real murderer into the movie - it’s not what it’s about). And the film as a whole plays on the concept of people’s unique fears - surely a concept based in psychology. I just want to make sure folks know that it's its own beast, and nothing like the other films you'd find in the Psychological section of HMAD (most of which involve people purposely being driven mad so they can be scammed out of their inheritance).

I have not yet read the short story by Barker, so I cannot speak to the faithfulness of the adaptation. The film version essentially has two lead characters, Stephen Grace (played by Jackson Rathbone, far more effective and interesting here than he was allowed to be in Twilight) and Quaid (the Paul Bettany-esque Shaun Evans). Grace is a film student, and Quaid recruits him to make a documentary about people’s fears; what causes them dread. After getting fed up with people coming in with generic fears (clowns, the dark, etc), their film’s editor (Hanne Steen) offers up her own unique fear - meat. Her dad used to abuse her after coming home from the meat packing plant where he worked, and now the smell or sight of meat brings those memories back. From then on, the film follows Quaid’s increasing obsession with getting people to offer equally disturbing examples, with, of course, horrifying results.

Since the movie is not due for release any time soon, I don’t want to spoil anything (I actually feel I’ve given away too much, but I want folks to know that this is not a remake of the 1996 DTV movie The Fear), but let’s just say that if there was ever a film that could make someone turn into a vegetarian, it’s this one. The meat fear plays a part in the film’s incredibly gut-wrenching and horrifying finale, building toward a downer ending that redefines “downer endings”.

But what really grabbed me is how the film accurately depicts its own title. It’s not a big spectacle film with “set pieces” or anything like that - it deliberately builds at a sure and steady pace, developing the characters along with the plot as they make their way toward the horrific ending. Some may see this as “slow”, but I found it refreshing. It’s rare to see a horror film - especially one from a first time director, based on a work by one of the foremost names in horror - take time to really make you identify with not one but FOUR characters, to the extent that even the film’s “villain” is sympathetic.

The sound design and score also gets this point across. Theo Green’s score is incredible, and the occasional licensed songs fit well (no Fall Out Boy here). Again, it’s not a film with lots of typical horror scenes, but the score never lets you feel anything but uneasy about what is to come.

My only minor issue was the first 10 minutes or so. The friendship between Quaid and Grace is crucial to the film, and it seems like they meet, talk, and begin working together within minutes. I can see why they’d want to get to the documentary as soon as they could, but I still wouldn’t have minded maybe 4-5 minutes’ worth of the two of them bonding prior to embarking on their “project”.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that “Dread” is their favorite Barker story, so I hope that this film lives up to the expectations of those fans. For a non-reader like me (something I will remedy soon, as I just finally finished Barker’s beast known as "Coldheart Canyon"), I can only say that the film not only extends Barker’s hit streak (not counting Candyman/Hellraiser sequels that he had no involvement with, I have yet to dislike a Barker related film, rare as they are), but also raises the bar for one. After what has to be a thousand movies in a row, I admit to getting a bit blasé at times, which makes Dread’s effectiveness all the more notable. If this movie doesn't end up in my top 5 for the year, then by default 2009 would have to be the best year for horror movies ever.

What say you?

(NOTE - Not a trailer, more of a promotional video for distributing purposes.)


  1. having loved Midnight Meat Train, I cannot wait for this, one of my favorite Barker stories.

  2. Wow... I really don't think I have ever seen you use the word 'exceptional' in the teaser for a review.... If you have it's been a while.

  3. i will call you tomorrow and read "dread" to you in its entirety. HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE THE BOOKS OF BLOOD?

  4. Believe it or not, The Fear got a full theatrical release. One of the worst movies I ever saw in the theater...

  5. And when is it going to be released so that the European audience can watch it?

    Let's hope it works out, with the changes to the story you mentioned.

  6. I went to that advanced screening too, and I wasn't all that impressed. But on reflection, it's more ambitious and fascinating than 90% of horror films these days. And the final ten minutes are pretty damn affecting.

  7. Like Midnight Meat Train, this looks amazing, but I'm curious as to what liberties will be taken in telling the story. I felt the liberties taken in Meat Train actually helped the movie format and tied up some old loose ends, i.e. Kaufman's vocation, Mahogany being mute. I can tell from the preview that the movie Dread is not like the story. I fear that it is more than them just changing majors. Its no wonder than Barker would write and writers and the directors of Barker's films would created film students and artists in their films. I worry that the most important scene in the story won't be in the movie. **Spoiler Alert** When Quaid locks Stephen, against his will, in an isolation chamber to confront his fear. This breaks him and leads to the final axe scene.

  8. ok so i stopped reading..i read just enough to feel comfortable that it seems to actually match the short story after all..I saw the trailer and couldnt really notice that.

    The short story was pretty good. I like the Book of Blood stories. I only read the 1st 2, but it puts your mind into such a strange position. thanks for the review. I hope to see it before completing the read.

  9. "I worry that the most important scene in the story won't be in the movie. **Spoiler Alert** When Quaid locks Stephen, against his will, in an isolation chamber to confront his fear. This breaks him and leads to the final axe scene."
    - same here...

  10. Not a Barker fan—couldn't stand Weaveworld, and thought the Hellraiser movie was rubbish. Can't say this review convinced me to give Dread a chance; the premise sounds silly.


  11. Really good film, just watched it and was checking some reviews.
    Well worth seeking out.
    8 out of 10.

  12. Cant find the soundtrack anywhere any help?

  13. I was blown away by just how good this was too. The only problem I had was the same as yours that the friendship wasn't well developed. It seemed that sex scene the two guys had with the two girls was supposed to be their big bonding moment. Still a pretty minor complaint in comparison to one of the best horror movies I've seen in a while.

  14. i am so mad at you. first, last night when i spoke to you, you said you had read the story-- but coming here to comment on it, you seemingly have read it AFTER you saw this pile of rubbish. this movie was awful. no one in their right mind would hang out with quaid, the addition of several pointless characters was exactly that-- pointless-- and the whole amazing purpose of the story was just pissed all over. the best PARTS of the story aren't even there. you said that they could never make a movie of what story there is in the written work; i disagree-- they could have made a shorter, more cohesive version.

    they didn't have to make a shit show out of it. what a waste of money, time, and effort. one skull.

  15. just watched this last night..

    man..i read the short story..and i loved it.

    and this movie did quite well of portraying the story, with of course, plenty added in to fill the movie. They did change it up a slight bit, and whereas I think if comparing it to the book, I am not as happy with the follow through, because I was attached the the stories play out. BUT...on its own..not comparing to the short story..THIS WAS GREAT!!
    the movie on its own was freakin awesome!

    but aside from small things like quaid not being one you would even hang out with..the POINT was slightly pissed on..but really..they just changed the play out.

    I was attached to the original short story play out..so that side..it was a downer ending..but NOT REALLY..it was a great great movie.. and well created too.

  16. does anyone know where i can look up the soundtrack 4 dread?

  17. who can tell me the name of the band or song, which play in the middle of the movie, the slow one

  18. I believe its Vicious Traditions by the Veils


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget