Starring Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Evans and Laura Donnelly
Written and directed by Anthony DiBlasi
It’s always great to see horror icon Clive Barker’s work adapted to film, even if the results are often a mixed blessing. Dread is based on a short story taken from one of Barker’s seminal (ha, ha) Books of Blood. I haven’t read it in 20 years so we’ll leave aside comparisons between text and film, but there’s little denying that Dread is the best Barker adaptation since the master’s last directorial effort, 1995’s Lord of Illusions.
Twilight staple Jackson Rathbone gets a chance to really show us his abilities as Stephen Grace, a bored psychology student who falls under the spell of the older Quaid (Shaun Evans). Quaid, plagued by his own demons (namely the psycho who killed his family in front of his eyes as a child), challenges Stephen to amp up his university psychology experiment. Their aim: to discover what their subjects dread. That the experiment degenerates into trauma, cruelty and torture should come as little surprise.
Writer/director Anthony DiBlasi manages to balance onscreen violence and gore with actual tension, with Quaid’s horrific visions providing gorehounds with their red red meat, while the increasingly fractured and co-dependent relationship between Stephen and Quaid provides an uncomfortable frisson of tension.
That Dread should degenerate into distasteful violence and unseen horror should be a given, given Barker’s taste for perversity. Kudos then to DiBlasi for realizing the flavour of Barker’s work while managing to make a film which stands as a testament to his own talent.