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Dread (2008)



Dread is a low-budget film out of Ohio written and directed by Laura Seli.   Although the film is one of those homemade, almost no budget films, there are elements of the film that are done surprisingly well.  There are also a few areas that could have easily been improved.  The film was shot in widescreen and many of the shots had excellent shot composition.  They must have bought or built some kind of track for the camera to do moving horizontal shots because there were several such shots in the movie and they were almost always the best shots of the scene.  There was one of these shots that looked very professional at the beginning of the film behind a crowd of people watching a band play at a party.  Several more appeared throughout the movie that almost always looked great even though the effect was slightly overused.  For the most part, the rest of the shots were relatively steady; which was a nice change from the last couple of low budget movies that I've watched!

The audio was much more consistent than most films of this budget.  There were a lot of noticeable overdubs, but they were much less distracting than the typical problem of inconsistent audio that forces you to keep changing the volume while watching a DVD.  The musical score started out extremely generic, but there was actually a pretty good variety of music throughout the film.  The band who contributed most of the songs for the film (and who also made an appearance at a party in the film) wasn't bad, but their music didn't always seem to fit thematically.

When it comes to gore, this movie is somewhere around average.  There were several scenes with decent gore and one scene in particular of mutilated body parts impaled on tree branches that was beautifully shot.  For the most part, the gore scenes fit well into the context of the story and didn't feel like they were forced into the movie just for the sake of adding gore.  The rest of the special effects were about equal to the gore.  There was a lot of fog that was done pretty well.  There were also a few scenes with computer effects that looked cheesy, but they weren't the worst that I've seen.  Plus, they helped tell the story, and weren't very distracting.  Unless you have a lot of money to do high dollar effects, these are probably about as good as you would get. 

Most of the acting wasn't bad, but very underplayed.  The problem I usually see with the acting in this kind of film is the actors look like they're acting.  Dread did not have that problem at all and for the most part, the acting was good enough that I didn't notice the actors were acting; what more can you ask for than that?  However, there were a few scenes where the characters' reactions to horrifying events were so understated that it decreased the potential shock or emotion from the scene.  The best acting in the film was done by the actor who played the priest and, I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't recognize that it was Bill Hinzman of the original Night of the Living Dead.  While watching the film, I made a note to find out who played the priest and mention that he did a great job.  When I saw who it was, I felt like a real idiot.  So there you go - Bill Hinzman is a good actor.

The biggest problems that I saw with the film were with the editing, the lacking characters and the script.  The editing looked good, but could have been a lot tighter.  The film was somewhere around 90 minutes, but could easily have been cut down to 70 minutes without taking anything away from the story.  Too many scenes were unnecessarily long.  As for the characters, there wasn't a protagonist, or even supporting character, that the viewers care about.  The main guy is supposed to be an asshole, but it takes way too long to learn just how much of an asshole he is and there's never a point where the viewer cares about anyone that suffer from his actions.  Most of the characters just didn't seem to have any personality.  They felt either completely apathetic about everything going on in the film or like generic background characters.  As for the story, the idea was pretty cool, but there was a great lack of clarity in the script.  There were too many unrelated elements that aren't clear when they first appear.  It's only later in the film that each one makes sense and I saw no reason for most of them to be mysterious.  I couldn't tell if the reason behind their mystery was because Seli wanted lots of little inconsequential curiosities throughout the film or if it just didn't occur to her that a viewer wouldn't have the same insight as someone who knew the whole story.  

I could get past the editing and long scenes.  I'm not sure if the characters' vapidity was intentional or not, but either way, that didn't ruin the film.  However, the lack of clarity in direction of the script was the biggest misstep for me.  I think if someone who had absolutely no knowledge of the movie (not even a one sentence description) watched a rough cut of the film and discussed it before a final edit, it could have made all the difference for Dread

I have intentionally avoided talking about the story of the movie in case you want to check it out and the mysteries of the film were indeed intentional.  Overall, I have definitely seen worse films.  It's disappointing to see a movie with such potential, one that was actually shot well and with decent acting and a pretty cool story, fall short over a lack clarity in the script and a lack of objectivity in the editing room.  Still, it's better than a lot of the low budget, homemade films that I see.  For more information, check out the website here:


Gore-o-meter rating: 2.5 out of 5
(There are several scenes with pretty good gore)

Skin-o-meter: 0 out of 5 (no nudity)