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Film / Dread

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Dread is a 2009 film directed by Anthony DiBlasi and starring Jackson Rathbone based on a short story written by Clive Barker.

Three college students set out to do a project on people's innermost fears. One of them, a disturbed young man named Quaid who witnessed his parents get murdered as a child, takes the project to the next level.

Was part of the After Dark Horrorfest film festival. For the original short story see Dread.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Given that the source material is a short story, this is to be expected.
  • Ax-Crazy: Not only the guy who killed Quaid's parents, but by the end, Steven and Joshua as well.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Quaid gets away with his crimes with no repercussions whatsoever and is even in a better place at the end than he was at the beginning, having overcome his 'dread'.
  • Big Bad: Quaid, a madman willing to torture people to understand the nature of fear.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: When Abby is in the bathtub and tries to scrub off her birthmark.
  • Body Horror: After being humiliated by Quaid, Abby proceeds to scrub off her birthmark, which covers half of her body, in the bathtub… with steel wool.
    • She then proceeds to pour bleach all over the wounds in hopes of wiping it out.
  • Canon Foreigner: Abby
  • The Chessmaster: Quaid
  • Decomposite Character: Steven and Joshua in the film were both derived from the same character in the novella.
  • Death by Adaptation/Spared by the Adaptation: In the original short story, Steven survives (albeit insane) and Quaid is killed.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Joshua returns and, assuming that Steven was working with Quaid when Quaid made him go deaf, kills Steven with an axe.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Abby has a birthmark that covers half of her body.
  • Downer Ending: Steven is about to fight Quaid, but an insane Joshua buries an axe in his chest. Quaid then shoots Joshua in the head, and drags Steven's body to Cheryl's room, waiting to see how long it'll take for her to get hungry enough to eat him.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Cheryl is locked in a room with nothing but a knife and the dead body of her boyfriend. Compounding on this is the fact that she cannot stand the smell of meat due to her father's abuse when he was smelling of it.
  • Freudian Excuse: Quaid witnessed his parents get killed by a psycho with an axe. The other characters have skeletons in their closet as well.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The guy who killed Quaid's parents basically just shows up, butchers them, spares Quaid for no apparent reason, and vanishes from the story. He exists entirely to give the Big Bad a Freudian Excuse.
  • The Hero Dies: Steven gets an axe to the chest because an insane Joshua thinks he's working with the Big Bad.
  • Karma Houdini: Quaid gets away with everything.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Cheryl is ultimately locked in a room where she has nothing to eat but her dead boyfriend.
  • One-Word Title: Dread
  • Rape as Backstory: Cheryl was sexually abused by her father.
  • Sadistic Choice: Quaid puts Cheryl through this, both times in similar ways. First, by leaving her in a room with nothing but a cooked and salted steak despite her aversion to eating meat (due to her father smelling of it while molesting her), then leaving her in a room with nothing but a knife and her dead boyfriend, also intending for her to eat him out of starved desperation.
  • Shout-Out: To Batman. Quaid is the Scarecrow with Batman's origin story. The filmmakers seem to have taken this and ran with it, as the original character Abby is pretty obviously based on Two-Face.
  • The Sociopath: Quaid acts like a normal guy, even somewhat charismatic. However, he's completely obsessed with conquering fear, and has no lines he won't cross to do it. The Mask of Sanity starts to slip when he attacks a woman for lying to him; soon after he starts torturing his friends to get better results. Even his Freudian Excuse of watching his parents die has nothing to do with any kind of care so much as fearing for his own life.
  • Trapped at the Dinner Table: A macabre example. Cheryl doesn't eat meat because her father worked at a meat-packing plant and his clothes would always smell like it when he molested her. Quaid, a psychopath studying people's worst fears, locks her in a room with a well-cooked steak and refuses to let her out until she eats all of it. After about a week, she finally eats it in desperation, even though it's gone rotten.
  • Trauma Button: Cheryl cannot stand the taste or smell of meat because her father worked at a meatpacking plant and smelled like it when he molested her as a little girl. Quaid locks her in a room with only a steak to eat and later forces her to eat her boyfriend's corpse.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Everyone becomes this under Quaid's "experiments".
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: It's hard not to feel sympathy for Quaid given what he went through. For the first half of the film, at least.