Take It To The Limit
December 14, 2009
I just watched Clive Barker’s Dread. I’m a huge Clive Barker fan. Have been for years. His recent work (since Coldheart Canyon) has left me a bit off, but I still consider him one of the best working writers today (let alone horror writers). So why do adaptations of his works always fall flat on their faces? It’s not like his work is particularly arcane or opaque. The stories are relatively clear and straightforward, generally speaking. So why is there always such drastic deviation from the source material? And it’s not even the big things that get changed. No — generally the hard stuff gets filmed and then they screw up on the little things that, when aggregated through the narrative, make or break the story.
It’s like how Midnight Meat Train deviated from the source material drastically in the last five minutes and that — I think — actively ruined what could have otherwise been a phenomenal adaptation and the best horror movie of the year. Dread is in the same boat as Midnight Meat Train. The ending is so fundamentally different from the short story that I actually felt ripped off. I’m usually not a stickler for adaptation’s felicity to the original. Hell, Blade Runner is a brilliant movie despite not being anything like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. But in this case what I watched wasn’t Clive Barker’s Dread it was Some Other Guy’s Movie About Fear That He Wrote After Reading The Books of Blood.
Seriously. Dread is a tight, terrifying story. The movie sets up the premises and characters well enough (despite some pretty deplorable dialogue). And then it drops the plot within sight of the finish line. It would have been a good ending, too, if it were some other film. But it’s not some other movie. It’s Dread and as such it’s a total disappointment. I can’t recommend it to anyone. And I was watching it as charitably as possible!
More fiction tomorrow.