A young, impressionable film student teams up with a charismatic, confrontational artist for an interesting project: they interview people to find out about their deepest, darkest fears. However, the artist is dealing with some serious psychological trauma, and his emotional breakdown leads to him manipulating the information they've gathered in a bizarre, gruesome fashion.
The movie that kept running through my mind during Dread (apparently based on a Clive Barker story) was The Lost, a similarly flawed but stylistically assured debut with an uncommonly nuanced villain for a horror movie. It's surprisingly thoughtful and effective; it technically fits in with the torture-themed horror of the past several years, but the emphasis is more on mental torture than physical (although it still gets icky in places). Afterwards, I felt a little disappointed with the final act. I don't care much about realism in horror films, but the last 20 minutes or so relies a little too much on plot devices, coincidence, and convenience (for example, the villain should be easily captured by the authorities, except that not one but two characters, independent of each other, decide to take him on themselves instead of going to the cops), then piles on the misery to an excessive degree and ends on what feels like a sick joke. It was still a good movie, but something rubbed me wrong.
Yet, I don't know, a few days later the film had still stuck with me. The final moment may be a little over the top or too brash in its execution, but it's truly disturbing and perfectly fitting with what came before. I still have problems with it, but I have to admit that the film, including the ending, got under my skin. After watching it Sunday I initially thought I'd saddle it with a "B-," but with a few more days contemplation: