by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A young student, Steve, becomes acquainted with an older student named Quaid, a sociopath who is obsessed with fear. Quaid performs experiments on people to see the results of forcing them to face their deepest fears. Steve gets involved ever deeper.

Dread is based on a short story by Clive Barker, but it's an odd adaptation. For about the first third of the film it is almost completely faithful to the tone and content of its source. It establishes the same central premise described above, and uses the same two central characters, while elaborating on the original only to the extent necessary to create a feature-length film from a sketchy little story. Then, somewhere toward the middle of the film, the screenwriters decided that Barker didn't make the optimal use of his characters and his basic idea, so it spins the story off in a radically different, but equally horrifying direction.

There's a problem with that. Oh, the new concept is creepy enough, and there's no problem with changing the source. After all, Poe's and Lovecraft's stories have formed the bases for plenty of movies which are only tangentially related to the original material, so there's no reason to expect different treatment for Barker, who is the Poe or Lovecraft of his own time. The problem resulted because the people making the changes failed to take into account that there's more to a good horror story than just the horrifying events. There can be, for example, a sense that the end of the story is somehow appropriate to the beginning. Barker had thought that though quite well. Quaid experiments on Steven, which drives Steven insane. Steven's madness ultimately and ironically forces Quaid to come face to face with his own fears, with extremely unpleasant consequences. Or is that what he had really wanted all along, at least on a subconscious level?

The movie goes in a completely different direction. Quaid remains in complete control throughout, and continues to torture people with their own fears until the bitter end, with the levels of depravity in his experiments continuing to escalate. In fact, the film ends with Quaid having been established as a potential horror icon, suitable for sequels and action figures. In other words, the film takes a thoughtful horror tale, kind of a Rod Serling story updated for this era which has apotheosized sadism and torture, and turns it into a completely run-of-the-mill and trendy horror film which could be a Saw sequel with only some minor adaptations.

That's problem one. Problem two is that the film telegraphs its resolution to the audience in an extremely obvious manner, but doesn't allow its characters to see what is so patently clear to us. It should be completely obvious to the other characters in the film that Quaid is deeply disturbed and dangerous, yet they continue to associate with him and forgive him, as if his major displays of psychopathic behavior had been merely harmless examples of social faux pas, or perhaps manifestations of the marvelous diversity of the human race wherein friends forgive one another's petty eccentricities. If you or I had seen the extreme behavior that they saw, we would have ended the friendship or any other contact with Quaid. We might even have sought a restraining order if he continued to attempt to contact us. The other characters in the story just seem to chalk Quaid's bursts of malevolence up to typical student hijinks, although perhaps a bit darker than the usual adolescent outbursts because of Quaid's troubled childhood. That isn't believable in context, and is just sloppy screenwriting.

And I guess you could say that it was also arrogant screenwriting, since the filmmakers had already decided to change what Barker had created, although the way Barker wrote it was perfectly fine to begin with! Oddly enough, the same thing happened with the first Candyman film, which was also based on a Barker story. While that earlier film had many positives, it also had gaping plot holes which were not present in Barker's original story, but were created because the screenwriters tinkered with some details of the story without taking into account how their alterations would affect all the other details.

Although the Dread film does not succeed in terms of gripping storytelling or credible characterization, it does have some positives: grotesquely imaginative set pieces, a consistently ominous tone, and a few sequences with some genuine dramatic tension. Director Anthony DiBlasi did a significantly better job than screenwriter Anthony DiBlasi, so much so that I found myself impressed with the atmosphere created by the film, although I never really liked it or got into it. If your tastes are darker than mine, you may well find it worth a watch.


Awaiting DVD info

Release date: Jan 29, 2010





While no major reviewers screened this film, many specialty sites reviewed it after its appearances at film festivals. You will find more than 20 reviews at the IMDb page.




6.5 IMDB summary (of 10)





Straight to DVD





Laura Donnelly showed her breasts in more than one scene, but her character had a birthmark on the entire left side of her body, so the nudity looks odd. (And yet strangely erotic.)

Various models and strippers are seen topless and/or in thongs.

Shaun Evans shows his butt in a shower scene and a sex scene.





Web www.scoopy.com

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A flawed little horror flick, but one with some strong positives that display some talent to make better films.