Dread happens to be the only After Dark film I've seen of this year's 8 Films to Die For and it's a title that's not to be missed. It's a slow burn character study that quickly veers off track into a quietly disturbing shit storm of terror. Fans of Clive are likely to not be disappointed this weekend when Dread joins 7 additional After Dark titles in theaters nationwide. Full credit to first time director Anthony DiBlasi (who also wrote the screenplay) for making it work. I was happy to spend some time chatting with Anthony about Dread the other day (unfortunately, before I had the chance to see it) and pick his brain on everything from working with Clive to the crown jewel Barker story he'd love to tackle in the future.
After Dark Horrorfest is in theaters January 29nd–February 5th, titles include: ZMD:Zombies of Mass Destruction, The Final, The Graves, Hidden, Dread, Lake Mungo, Kill Theory and The Reeds. Check out my full interview with Anthony DiBlasi below.
FEARnet: Can you give us a bit of background on Dread the short story vs. Dread the feature length film?
Anthony DiBlasi: Dread was first published in 1984 as part of the Books of Blood collection and it's a story about people's dreads and the study of that, but in the film it's a film study about dread. In the short story it's philosophy students getting tangled up on the subject and horrible things happen.
How did you start working with Clive and how closely do you work with him?
Close, I've worked with Clive for the past 7 or so years now acting as producer on a lot of his other projects, so I have a really close working relationship with him. It's both a hands on hands off process. We have daily, weekly, monthly communication with him, it depends what our schedules are like, and what he's doing because he's wrapped up in his world of novels. And he's been painting so much that he's never 100% hands on with everything but we have such a shorthand that I'll go off and write a screenplay and shoot it to him and he'll throw me notes and we go back and forth. When we were on production we were in London and he was in L.A. he came down for a bit if pre production and later on during post. But he'd watch dailies and give his thoughts.
So Dread was shot entirely in London?
Yeah, the whole thing was shot in the U.K. we did pre and post production in the Soho area, but we shot primarily in Egham which was more the country area.
How was your experience in a foreign country as a first time director?
It was great. Being on the producing side, directing is what I always wanted to do and it was a very comfortable step, I was really ready for it. I was excited and it was a great shoot, being in London it came full circle from Clive where he started and now here I am in his home while he's in L.A. and I'm shooting one of his first stories. It was nothing but exciting, a very smooth shoot.
Since our development with the studio was so long prior to shooting, I knew the story so well, and I knew what I wanted it to be, I was always pretty comfortable with it. At first the studio wanted it to be PG-13 and we entertained that for a while when we were at the studio, so for me it was like thank god we got Dread back now we can do what we want to.
Did you run into any trouble with the MPAA?
We couldn't get our trailer past the MPAA so we had to do a red band, but the cut went in pretty well. I'm proud of our rating. I mean we have an R Rating with like 28 words next to it so it's long and detailed.
So it's not just an R for 'thematic elements'?
Oh yeah, we have disturbing elements, graphic sex, just everything.
It's like a badge of honor!
It is, it was great, and I couldn't wait for it to come back because sometimes the MPAA can be really entertaining. Often it's generic like sex, violence, drugs. But then you get these gems that are like, 'Rated R for perverse language and touching of genitals' so I was happy with Dread's rating, it got a good one. I don't remember it in detail; I hope they put it on the box. You'll love it when you see it.
Well, I'm glad to see the MPAA is loosening up a bit.
Yeah, they are. I was surprised. I mean I did think Dread would have trouble in some areas I mean the transition from PG-13 to R wasn't that hard because there was all this stuff in the book we cut out. The stuff that I really liked to put back in and the stuff I think I put even more of in and it's the stuff that I think is more inherent in Clive's work is sexuality, a taboo element. All his horror is very sexually charged and that's where I was actually concerned with the MPAA because you can get away with blood and gore, but you have a much harder time with sex. And I think a lot of the horror in Dread is sexually connected in some way. A lot of the major set pieces have a sexual element to it but we got through with a pretty good rating I'd say.
As a first time director, what were your some of your inspirations for style and tone?
You'll see some references to The Shining cause there's an axe involved and a movie that's not horror but I held dear while shooting was Sex, Lies, and Videotape because that's the kind of movie it is. It's a dramatic film, it's not your typical horror movie it fits in a lot of genres which some people really don't want from a horror film or a Clive Barker film, but it is. It has this documentary feel.
When do you start shooting Pig Blood Blues and what's after that?
Pig Blood Blues in London again, hopefully in February
I adapted Clive's first novel The Damnation Game which is at Phoenix Pictures, they have such a great slate right now with Shutter Island and Black Swan. They're really behind The Damnation Game. The script is in great shape. That's a much bigger picture in the vein of Shutter Island. They hope to get that kind of size director and those kinds of a-list actors. I'll be a producer on that.
So does Clive have a hold on you now? Are you his forever?
I dunno, I mean he definitely has a hold on me. I certainly have things outside of Clive, but right now I think since Dread is my first directing project and the next one being Pig Blood Blues that the next couple years of my life are going to be Clive Barker. I do have other things outside of horror from things like quirky drama to children's fantasy and stuff but when it comes to horror, I will, at least for now, work with Clive.
Anything Clive Barker related you'd like to tackle down the road?
Yeah, the one thing I think is the crown jewel, I mean Dread and Pig Blood are my favorite short stories, but the film I'd love to direct one day is The Thief of Always. It's been through the studio system quite a few times but hopefully if my career grows, we'll see.