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Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
An Impressive Debut at Montreal's 2009 Fantasia Festival
Based on the Clive Barker short story, Dread, which made its world premiere at the 2009 edition of Montreal's Fantasia film festival, is remarkable on two fronts: Barker's striking departure from his traditional macabre story lines, and Anthony DiBlasi's impressive directorial debut.
The story unfolds with two college students, Steve (Twilight's Jackson Rathbone) and Quaid (Shaun Evans), agreeing to work together to create a documentary of people's innermost fears. The two put out a call for candidates and document their interviews on video.
An expert manipulator, Quaid is able to coax these troubled souls into revealing their innermost demons; deeply personal revelations they would otherwise never dream of discussing in public, much less on camera. Meanwhile Quaid harbors deep seated psychological scars of his own, having been a childhood survivor of the brutal home invasion axe slaying of his parents at the hands of a mysterious psycho.
Espousing the belief that by confronting one's ultimate fear an individual will either overcome their phobia or be consumed by it, Quaid convinces the more demure Steve, and friends Cheryl and Abby to participate in the study. Unknown to everyone involved, however, is Quaid's desire to take things to the next level, progressing beyond mere interviews to the actual physical and psychological nightmare of tackling their fears head on.
DiBlasi displays a remarkably talented hand at spinning a yarn that incorporates introspective, character-driven drama and some spectacularly jolting and emotionally moving sequences. While deviating out of necessity from the plot structure of Barker's original story, which didn't provide much "meat" for a feature length film, Barker equally deserves kudos for providing DiBlasi with a twisted tale that is firmly rooted in the real world, where human cruelty is infinitely more tangible and terrifying than anything the supernatural can invoke.
Led by Rathbone and Evans, the young cast turns in uniformly strong, nuanced and intensely emotional performances not typically found in this genre. Among the standouts is Hanne Steen, who plays Cheryl, a friend infatuated with Steve who bears the curse of a disfiguring skin pigmentation that covers a third of her face and body. Steen deftly manages to convey her character's sensitivity and long held pain in a manner that the viewer can readily attune to, earmarking her as a future talent to watch.
As debuts go DiBlasi's Dread is as solid, slick, engaging and thought provoking as it is terrifying, making this a must see, not merely for fans of the genre, but anyone with untold skeletons in their closet.
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