Dread (2009) is the most recent addition to the Clive Barker franchise. It follows the story of Stephen Grace, (Jackson Rathbone) a college student who lives a fairly dull life, until he meets fellow student Quaid (Shaun Evans). We learn early on that Quaid watched the brutal death of his parents in a home invasion as a young child, and it appears the more we learn about Quaid, the stranger he seems. Soon he proposes a “fear study” to Stephen, an opportunity to live through the fears of their subjects; the result would provide an on screen production for Stephen’s psychology thesis.
In order to fully realise his own fears, Stephen stops taking medications that help him suppress the memories of the events that took place when he was a child. Soon after, he begins hallucinating, seeing images of the man who killed his parents. His hallucinations become more graphic the longer he if off his medication. After some experiments go awry, it is apparent that Quaid has taken the study into his own hands, in order to deepen the impact on his subjects.
Dread soon develops from a rather slow story into a horror-torture flick that sees it earn its R18+ rating. As the team investigates their subjects inner fears, we watch Quaid become more and more deranged, developing experiments of his own. It is at this stage, roughly an hour into the film, that the story finally starts moving. Unfortunately, Dread is let down by such a slow start, as poor character development in the initial scenes leaves audience members disconnected from their tortures in the closing sequences. We don’t feel anything in particular for these characters, we don’t even particularly like them, so when things start to go wrong, it is hard to feel any level of compassion for them.
Thankfully, Barker’s detail to the cringe worthy factors of Quaid’s tortures allow us to feel some sympathy at the most basic of levels – the torture scenes are disgustingly graphic, and as such we wouldn’t want to see anyone go through this level of torment. We can safely say that this movie isn’t for the faint hearted – some scenes are nearly vomit inducing. For a horror thriller, Dread does not leave the viewer feeling suspenseful, or frightened. It leaves them feeling sick to their core. Nothing is resolved, nothing is final. All the audience is left with is a sick stomach, and absolutely nothing to think about. Not recommended for the faint of heart, and not to be likened to other horror-torture flicks of late, Dread will leave you wishing you hadn’t wasted and hour and a half, just to see a few blood splatters. Two stars.