Dread (2009)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Overall Rating 56%
Overall Rating
Ranked #3,626
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Three college students set out to document what other people dread the most. However, one of the three turns out to secretly be a sadistic psychopath who uses this knowledge to gruesomely torture the subjects. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: April 10, 2011
I recently read through Clive Barker's Books of Blood series, and as you may know, a number of movie adaptations have sprung up out of those pages. Let's see... there's been The Midnight Meat Train, Candyman, Rawhead Rex, (part of) Quicksilver Highway, Lord of Illusions, and Book of Blood, so to say that this series has a wealth of excellent material would be an understatement. Now, those are not the only good stories to be found, and with the exception of volume four (which got a little too goofy for my tastes), the entire series is on equal footing in terms of quality.

However, while I was reading these books, one story stuck out in my head as absolutely requiring a movie adaptation, and that story would be Dread. This is not to say that it's better than the other stories, it's just that this one seemed to be the perfect choice for an adaptation, and as I read it, I could literally see a film version playing out in my head. Imagine my surprise when I hopped online to see that an adaptation had already been made and had slipped under my radar, so needless to say, it got bumped up to the top of my Netflix queue. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

The story centers around Stephen (Jackson Rathbone) and Quaid (Shaun Evans), two charming young lads who decide to do a study on fear: namely, what causes it and how it can be overcome. Quaid is involved in this study due to being traumatized as a child by seeing his parents killed by an axe-murderer, which causes him to wake up screaming every night and spend his days living in fear of the murderer coming back for him, while Stephen is involved in it for his college thesis. Guess which one of them is way more dedicated to the project?

It begins out innocently enough: the two, along with the eventual love interest Cheryl (Hanne Steen), interview other students and ask them what they're afraid of. It's a logical starting point, but it doesn't quite provide the results that Quaid is looking for. So, he decides to raise the stakes a bit, beginning with the psychologically-devastating torment of Abby (Laura Donnelly), an attractive woman who just so happens to have a huge birthmark covering half of her body. When even that proves to not be enough, he decides to raise the stakes even higher, and his victims... well, his victims may not walk away with just their minds broken.

First things first: watching this film as someone who has read the short story that it is based on, I walked away from it rather disappointed. There are a number of additions made to the story for the film and a number of minor changes along the way, but I could live with that - after all, I realize that a short story needs a little extra meat in order to serve as a feature-length film, and besides, most of the stuff leading up to the end wasn't half bad. Unfortunately, the ending is where the film suffers in my eyes. You see, the short story ends with such great poetic justice that the story will stick with you for years to come, whereas the film decides to ignore that ending and present us with the typical twist ending that will be forgotten by the time you put the disc back in the Netflix envelope.

Maybe that's a little too extreme. I guess some people will enjoy the ending as it is presented here, as honestly, it wasn't a horrible way to wrap up a film. In fact, if you haven't read the story and you don't know how Barker decided to finish his telling of it, you might even enjoy the twisted nature of this climax. I hate to be one of "those" people, but it's the simple truth that Barker's ending was built up to throughout the story, it provided a satisfying ending, it was full of irony, and it would have looked great on screen. This ending was an "OMG EWWWWWW!" moment made for squeamish horror novices, nothing more and nothing less.

As for the rest of the film, it was pretty good. It wasn't great and it didn't live up to the story that it was based on, but as a standalone product, it was pretty good. I felt that the ending invalidated all of the work put into the build-up, but I think you already know where I stand on that topic. Otherwise, it does have a nice atmosphere about it, and the acting - while not great by any means - is perfectly acceptable. The "experiment" with Cheryl translated beautifully from the written work to the screen, I will give the filmmakers that much, and the murder found in the opening scenes was brilliantly shot. It's just a shame that the ending wasn't there to cap it off in the most logical fashion.

Overall, I'm going with an average rating for this one. Ignoring the short story altogether, this is an average film with an average ending, and to judge it based on anything but what is contained in the running time would be a bit silly. However, for those Clive Barker fans out there who are itching to see another great film adaptation of his work, you may want to look elsewhere. 5/10.
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