Derived from a Clive Barker short story, the non-supernatural horror-thriller “Dread” finds some college misfits under the sway of a charismatic peer who ropes them into studying people’s secret fears. Slow-building thriller intrigues, even if it doesn’t entirely satisfy, and will be one of the more eagerly sought-after titles in the new After Dark Horrorfest eight-pack after hitting DVD next month.
Stephen (“Twilight’s” Jackson Rathbone) is a student loner whose only pal is extensively birthmark-disfigured Abby (Laura Donnelly). He’s dazzled by friendly overtures from Quaid (Shaun Evans), a brash hedonist who proposes they collaborate, along with third “researcher” Cheryl (Hanne Steen), on a thesis project: interviewing subjects a la Kinsey, though not about sexuality but about innermost dread. The volatile, possibly disturbed Quaid — plagued by visions from a horrific childhood trauma — keeps pushing their “experiment to the next level,” to everyone else’s severe eventual misfortune. Confident writing/directing debut for prior Barker associate Anthony DiBlasi ends on a cruelly nasty note, yet the story feels overstretched, largely because once we grasp Quaid’s danger early on, his character ceases to surprise. However, pro assembly and perfs maintain interest.