Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Dread (2009) UK/US

First let me clarify: This is not Judge Dredd, this is not the abysmal movie The Dread (2007) reviewed 3/1/13, this is a movie 
adaptation of a creepy short story by Clive Barker (Hellraiser). Barker is one of my all time fave horror writers and I remembered how weirded out I got when I first read this story. I mean, ewww weirded out. Of course they had to stretch out the story (and slow it down quite a bit) to make it into a full length movie, but they're always doing that to Stephen King's stuff so why not? 

If you want to find the story (and a lot of other great creeped-out tales) get Barkers Books Of Blood which has been out there, like, forever and you'll recognize a couple of other movies made from it, such as Book Of Blood (2009) - the first movie I think I've ever watched that was from a PROLOGUE 
to a book instead of a short story. Another you'll recognize that came from that series is Candyman (1992) with Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, setting off Todd's career as a scary figure who only has to growl at you to send you running. 

This particular story came from volume two of the set - I read those books so many times I had to get new copies, they're just... my kind of horror. And, mind you, this is nasty stuff. We're not talking chainsaw killers, we're not talking paranormal garbage - just human needs and fears. And it was filmed in Boston - strange for an English story but hey, it works.

First we have Quaid. He's already massively damaged because he had seen is parents killed by an ax murderer (hey wait - no, never mind it wasn't a chainsaw and they weren't teenagers) so by the time he's in college he's massively crazy but hides it just enough to blend, I guess. I can relate.

Meanwhile we have Stephen (Jackson Rathbone, who to me looks like a shaggy young Johnny Depp here but you'd probably know him better as Jasper in the Twilight saga) who is doing a 'Fear Study' as a project. He wants to know what scares people. He also suffered a loss - his brother died in an auto accident while drunk and Stephen feels guilty, wondering if he should have driven, maybe his brother would have lived. 

His friend Cheryl had been sexually molested by her pig father who worked in a meat packing plant. She cannot even stand the smell of meat much less eat it. I feel the same way about liver and smelt and rabbit and... ahem. Anyway, it seems that these three should be their own project as they're more damaged than the students they're interviewing. But they need the grade.

Quaid however doesn't give a damn about the grade, he wants to know what other people will do with the situations they most fear. He wants more than people being afraid of something, he wants their dread, their utmost and total pants-wetting type of situations. Stephen thinks the study is done but Quaid is just getting started. Despite being an orphan he not only has money for college but a house too. I sometimes wonder about these kind of setups.

Of course since they had to expand this to a movie, there are changes - people have been added to the mix like one student who had been rendered deaf in an accident when he was five and stayed that way for months. In the book, that also is Stephen but here it's a student named Joshua. Also added is a friend of Stephen, Abby, who has a port wine stain birthmark from head to foot on one side. Needless to say these character all have fear but they're not 'giving up' the dread that Quaid is looking for, to, I guess, conquer his own about the killer of his parents, who was never caught, coming back for him.

He does a halfway decent job of keeping the insanity in check - until the night he decides to dump all his medications. From then the nightmares, the hallucinations, the fear rip into him until he is massively insane. And I guess he wants to spread the joy. First he tires of hearing what he feels are fake fears (one even did fake hers) and it sends him into a rage and he busts up all of their recording equipment, essentially ruining the project. From there it's about to get much, much worse.

At first Quaid seems sorry, he even takes a backup copy of the thesis they'd been working on and turned it in, getting him, Stephen and Cheryl a good grade. Stephen mistakenly thinks that Quaid is sincere and realizes his own fears had made him mental. Nope. He had painted a full length nude of Abby as 'normal' (her words), then puts up a tape on the school TV system of the painting as he strokes dark marks down one side, as her body really is. He then tricks Joshua to come over to his house, knocks him out and when he comes to, shoots his ears (Which apparently is enough to deafen him but not kill him? This part kind of was confusing.). This regresses him to when he was deaf as a child and he screams for his mother.

Meanwhile Abby goes nuts and takes bleach and steel wool to the bathtub, trying to 'scrub' the skin to make it normal - which puts her in the hospital. Which is also where Joshua ends up. After finding them, Stephen decides to end it for good - he knows Quaid's fear and uses it. He takes an ax and drags it slowly up to where Stephen's bedroom is (that's the sound he heard as he watched his parents being slaughtered). But Quaid overcomes his dread (too insane I guess) and captures Stephen. Stephen now gets to see Quaid's little 'experiment' with Stephen's girlfriend Cheryl.

He kidnaps Cheryl and puts her in a blocked up room. There's nothing in there but a bucket (yup, that's the toilet), some water and a plate with a cooked steak on it. Cheryl in her terror has backed into the corner as far away from the meat as she can get. As the hours go by she slowly goes mad, alternately talking to herself and scraping her skin and hair for invisible bugs. She resists going near the meat for almost a week. Finally, although by now it is crawling with maggots she eats the whole thing.

This is where the book and the movie split quite widely. In the movie they needed a quick ending so we've got Joshua sneaking into the house - he grabs the ax but instead of killing Quaid, he hits Stephen and kills him. Quaid then kills Joshua. He then drags Stephen down to where he's been keeping Cheryl (he lied when he said he let her go) and leaves the body in the room with a knife saying 'Let's see how hungry you have to be to get through that.' He leaves her sobbing, since she knows that inevitably, she WILL eat him.

The book was much more elegant but perhaps a little too complicated to convert to a screenplay. Basically since this is mostly about Stephen and Quaid, the two of them fight and Quaid, by exposing and overloading Stephen with his fears manages to reduce him to a quivering, insane child. But Stephen, finding the ax finally gives Quaid his due. The end of the story has Stephen slowly chopping pieces off of Quaid, who now knows his worst fear is going to last quite a while before darkness comes...