BUT BE WARNED: His Lordship is a bit academic and their may contain spoilers. It's also a rather long post, with lots to read. My suggestion: It's best to read this post after you've seen it. It's on Netflix instant. This is a different style than what you may be accustomed to on the blog, as his Lordship enjoys analysis over reviews, so please feel free to join in the comments section with your own analysis. We do enjoy friendly banter!
Kweeny And Lord Bearington's Super Serious Analysis Of Serious Seriousness On...
THE MOVIE DREAD
LB: Why, oh why was this direct to video? Dread is an awesome movie.
KT: Because it was a limited release festival film. It had it's premiere at the 2009 Montreal Fantasia Festival, where it was then promptly picked up by After Dark Films.
LB: Damn you Hollywood! Why do the good films get pushed to the margins and Battleship got a major theatrical release? ahem
KT: Jeeze, you don't give me the easy questions do you?
KT: I adore some of the lines in this movie. The actors capture the melodic yet searing prose Clive Barker uses in his own work. “I want your soul to open up for me...”
LB: It's wonderful how the opening sting gets used again... and with the addition of just a few more words, it goes from mysterious to a deeper, darker, more cthonic place.
KT: Right down into the underworld...
LB: I want to touch on something here, the alliterations to existentialist philosophy really does add some deeper meaning and framework to this film. From the starting point of Serinak's hedonism (taught at night) to Jean-Paul Sarte just as the film turns the corner into the third act, it really adds a level of depth that most pure “shock” movies don't have.
KT: I agree, it really does set up everything for the final blow at the end. Also, I love the music in this film. It's eerie, wrenching. It sets the tone for everything that's happening on screen.
LB: It's so good that it does that without being obtrusive, and is used sparingly, so that the actors really set the film.
LB: Ah the characters are so wonderfully set up in the bar's dialogue scene, one flees from fear while the other wants to...
KT: Chase it down like a lioness with her prey?
LB: I was going to say stare right into the Abyss and burn his fear away. But yeah, he has to chase it down.
KT: There's always the chase first.
LB: Fear... you're such a woman.
KT: What's that supposed to mean? Glares
LB: Uh, Movie... movie... Points look at the gripping Clive Barker movie!
KT: Oooooh... shiny movie... Tilts head and stares
LB: This movie does show not tell so wonderfully. The killer flashback scene is done so well. The cinematography, special effects, and even more subtle things make my fur bristle delightfully.
KT: I love the little things, like the subtle trick about him sticking his tongue out when taking the pills. That's what they do in mental hospitals, and it shows that he's been in them long enough that it's become an ingrained routine. Second, the special effects with the ax into the head of his mom, HOLY SHIT... I felt that in my own face man! It was so well done.
LB: I like how it sets up that no punches are going to be pulled in the film.
KT: Agreed whole heartedly! It very much reminds me of Martyrs that way, it sets up a complete disregard of the viewer's feelings and goes straight for the gut and doesn't let up.
LB: I disagree, but only slightly. It does let up, because otherwise it would just be another slasher movie. It allows the tension to snap back, then slowly build again to the breaking point.
KT: True, it's a little slower than Martyrs. Because Martyrs is like a punch to the gut, which then gripped your intestines, twisted and pulled you along throughout the entire film.
LB: Yes. Dread is like the ax that it uses. A heavy sharp blow that then raises, so you get all the time in the world to watch the arc it takes to swing around again... and again. And you're powerless to stop it.
KT: Too true. speaking of axes...
KT: The camera angle, with the ax head bumping along the stairs is bone-chillingly awesome.
LB: Not just technically awesome, but it gets that idea of slow building horror across so well. The inevitability of it.
KT: And then the when the killer runs his hands through the gore on the blade, “This is your mother and this is your father.” It has such weight beyond the character of the killer who has great screen presence, but the camera work is done so beautifully, it makes you feel that you're there with that kid. The whole film is filled with beautiful camera work.
LB: The scene also touches on a secondary theme that runs through the movie, the physical nature of who we are, especially in the existentialist philosophy from before. There is no god in this movie. No afterlife. None of the illusions existentialists say we hide behind to avoid looking at ourselves as so much meat.
KT: Agreed, we are monsters and meat. That's what this movie is about at the core.
LB: I'd say we're meat... and some of us are monsters IN meat.
KT: Oh honey, we're all monsters, it's just to what extent do you embrace your monster.
KT: Scritches Bear's head
LB: 64 Pilgrim st... Ugh... Pilgrim st. This movie is laced with so much underlying metaphor that it's brilliant.
KT: So is the short story honey. You should totally read The Books of Blood. The books as a whole are better.
LB: And of course, he's in the basement... the underworld.
KT: Of course he is, that's where all the fun begins. Party in the underworld!
LB: Okay, unless you REALLY want me to, I'll try to avoid all the metaphor/alliteration stuff I see from here on out unless it's really stand out to me.
KT: No you wont, now get back in the underworld and party!
LB: Adjusts monocle, gets brandy.
LB: Sex and the body....
KT: Yup. A major theme here. Quaid has no filters, he just showers next to Stephen like they've known each other their entire lives. He has no shame for his nakedness in front of another guy. It kind of captures that there's something off about Quaid, that he doesn't have conventional morality.
LB: Agreed, but the body, naked and exposed is another tool in the box used to show that we're just meat.
KT: Clive Barker has that as a theme throughout most of his work.
LB: If it wasn't done so well I'd call it sensationalist exploitation... but it's done well.
KT: I think it's because Clive Barker comes from a genuine place with it. These are questions that haunt him and his work. A good horror master writes about his personal demons.
KT:I have to say though, I feel for Cheryl the most because she survives and oh, how she survives...Shivers
LB: It's set up that way... that death isn't the worst thing, it's the dread in the waiting and fighting against it.
KT: Quaid has no boundaries, he just does whatever he wants. The scene where he breaks the watch is just another example of it.
LB: Oh he has boundaries, but they're all selfish, all about him. I want to see your soul, but there is no way I'm showing you mine.
KT: Dick move Quaid. Dick move.
LB: One of the things that I love is that not everything is explicit in this film. You don't know how Quaid got away from the killer. You don't know exactly what Cheryl's father did. You don't know what happens to Abby in the end. You don't know, and in the end, the not knowing is worse.
KT: Oh the dread, the building of delicious dread...
LB: And Quaid... not taking your pills is a bad plan! So now we get another ax blow in the form of a dream sequence. One done right for a change in cinema.
KT: It's a freaky fucking scene, but by no means the freakiest...
KT: Let's talk about characters. I like Abby's character, hell, I like all the characters! They each show the struggle to come to grips with the beast of dread, all in different ways. Even the most seemingly normal, like the girl who only pretends she has issues so she can get on film and build her portfolio, it takes a certain kind of selfish fear to fake you have been through trauma, just so you can be an actress.
LB: Is it bad that I want to touch Abby's face?
KT: What compels you to touch it?
LB: To reach out and bridge the gap of pain. To give a caress that says “It's the things that make you unique that make you wonderful.”
KT: If I didn't know you meant that from a purely loving place, it almost sounds the same as what Quaid says to her later on. He says something similar, but it's not full of compassion the way your statement is. But I digress...There's something so virginal about Abby undressing for Stephen.
LB: She's showing... oh boy... she's showing her true colors, she's unsure, unsafe, out of her comfort zone and letting...
KT: Letting someone in.
LB: Yeah. Letting someone in through the fear.
KT: I sometimes wish more people could be brave enough to do that.
LB: Pain is a great motivator not to, sadly.
KT: So after she gets rejected she ends up with Quaid, and while I enjoy his rant on what is sexy, it's probably the worst mistake she's ever made.
LB: If Quaid was still on his meds, it wouldn't have been though. That's the real tragedy of this for me. If he had done this study, this exploration while still on his meds he probably would have found the solace he needed. At a much slower pace grant you, but he would have found it without turning INTO the monster he fears.
KT: And his solace would have been more lasting.
LB: Yeah, because in the end, he's going to have to keep upping the ante to maintain his position as a psychonaut.
KT: Also: Abby is Quaids foil. Her darkness is on the outside, where his is inside.
LB: That's the superficial level, yeah, but it's also in how they deal with being “different”. Abby shies away from it where Quaid dives into it and swims around in the soup. Chuckles But I know you were just throwing me a softball line so “smart Bear sound smart.”
KT: Smirks and winks
LB: I want to compliment the movie on something: From the halfway point where Quaid and Abbey have sex to almost the end I really thought he had done something to Abby because she doesn't show up. The movie PLAYED me... they took my expectations and twisted them so well I didn't see it coming. golf claps Bravo old chaps.
KT: What follows is the opening sting revisited. It's scripted so beautifully and delivered so expertly that they sound and feel like they were penned by Mr. Barker right in that moment. It brings me back to the short story, making me relive the emotions brought out by the book, without being actual lines from the original work. I think some people have been hard on this movie because it's not a line for line to shot for shot remake of the story, but not all good adaptations have to be. Take Lord of the Rings for instance. It's not a spot on adaptation, but it's done so that the feel, the core of the work shines through.
LB: Or in this case, the core sucks out all light and hope... but I know what you mean.
KT: That's because it's a story about dread, Your Lordship.
LB: Which... was my point?
KT: You're a snot.
LB: Harumphs but smiles
KT:: When Quaid flips out at the half-way mark, that's when everything comes to a head, when the nasty pimple is about to burst.
LB: From here on out it's a slow descending train ride into madness and pain.
KT: And Quaid is the conductor.
LB: Wait a sec, his name is Stephen GRACE? Oh you... you... you movie you!
KT: Can't get over the metaphors huh?
LB: And Cheryl Fromm... I know that last name... searches internet. The author of Escape from Freedom and The Art of Loving? Oh you beautiful cheeky bastards!
KT: Chuckles Now you know why I read Clive Barker.
LB: That's one of the things I really do love about this movie. They did their homework. Even minor things have deep meaning.
KT: You know who one of the producers on this film is right?
KT: Clive Barker!
LB: Grumps Fangirl.
KT: The scene where Quaid tries to apologize and take Stephen for a “ride” shows how abusers work. They will flip out on you, make you feel like it's your fault then try to apologize and smooth is all out with charm. Because of Quaid's darkness he's becoming a monster in his own right without realizing it. He's abusing his friends and without permission walking into their mental minefields and then fucking with the scenery. These are all things you need to look out for in an abuser.
LB: And yet another bit of understanding how trauma can so easily lead one down those dark paths. It's true. Look into the Abyss and the Abyss looks into you. Dark Shaman Bear says, “Be very careful while exploring your shadow. It's a great thing to do, but make sure your friends have the other end of the rope and listen to them when they try to reel you back in. You can always make another trip, and explore it slowly.”
KT:: That's the whole problem with Quaid: went too fast, too hard and yanked everyone in with him.
LB: Knowing nod I want to talk about the use of lighting in this film for a bit. It's done with a deft artistry.
KT: One of the things I enjoy is the shadow play. If you look real close you can see the shadows creeping on the wall. It's done very subtly.
LB: That's what I'm talking about. The director knows what light, shadow and darkness symbolize and uses them to great effect. When I watched it the first time I thought of the way light was used in Citizen Kane. Yes, I just compared this to Citizen Kane in terms of cinematography, and I stand by it.
KT: You know you're starting to remind me of the Cinema Snob, and I have the hots for the Cinema Snob, right?
LB: Gives a prideful growl
LB: Okay, the second half of the movie is intensely gripping, but to talk about it involves a LOT of spoilers. We've done enough I think. Because of this we should stop the analysis there. It can't be talked about without spoiling the ending, so this is a really good place to stop.
KT: I think that might be for the best.
LB: I will say this, it's a Clive Barker film. It's an exploration of darkness and dread, so never stops being that. It's not a “fun” film, but it will keep you enthralled.
KT: It's definitely something that needs to be seen. It stirred feelings the way Martyrs did in me.
LB: I approached it from a more intellectual point of view (shocking I know) and it delivers on that end too.
KT: Absolutely, I just tend towards the emotional levels over the intellectual. But this movie does deliver on both ends, which makes both parts of me very happy.
LB: It's like Pi and Martyrs had a kid.
KT: YES! Perfect metaphor! You get a mind fuck and emotional catharsis all in one!
LB: So, your final verdict? I personally give it a 10/10, it's really one of the best films I've ever seen, hell, I compare it to Citizen Kane and would do so again. It's another Metropolis, Fight Club, or Pulp Fiction. Yes, it's that good. Because I haven't read the story it originally came from I can only judge it on its own merits and can't think of anything wrong with it as a stand alone work. That's why it gets the score it does from me. I know you've read Mr. Barker's work, so what do you think Kweeny?
KT: Clive Barker's Dread is the first movie adaptation to capture what it's like to read one of his horror stories. And readers of this blog know how much I love things like Hellraiser and Midnight Meat Train. They approached this story with complete seriousness and an eye at capturing the essence of the work they were adapting. It has all the intellectual meat and emotional depth you'd get from reading something from The Books of Blood. Just don't expect it to BE the Books of Blood. Look for the core of the meaning in the movie to show you the glimmer of Clive Barker's work. It's a 9/10 for me.