Dreadful (2006) – By Jordan Garren

Out of every batch of screeners I get, I try and judge the quality of the film by the cover and/or the description on the back. (Yes folks, I do judge a book by its cover!) Going by Dreadful‘s cover art (which for some crazy reason, didn’t want to scan correctly into my computer), I couldn’t decipher much, except that perhaps a red rose would be a key element in the film. And the lack of a description on the back helped this film remain enigmatic until I finally sat down and watched it. But even after watching the movie, the entire thing still remains a mystery! I’ve pieced together what I think director Kipp "Poe" Speicher was trying to say with his film, but truthfully… I have no idea what I’ve just watched!

Dreadful starts out with a montage of photos of violence and death (a picture of one of the former Trade Towers is amongst the photos), and even before that, a quote is flashed across the screen: "The stones from my enemies, these wounds will mend. But I cannot survive, the roses from my friends. – Ben Harper" Once the film finally kicks off, we see a man dressed in black and holding a cane, which he suddenly uses to kill a woman and (I assume) her baby. Their blood slowly pools and drips down a grate in the floor (and all of this is pretty surreal because the blood is actually red, while everything is black, white, or gray) and into a cup of water below.

But from what I can ascertain, this assault on a woman and her child has no bearing on the story, other than to show that the dude in black is ee-vil and merciless! In the next scene, we see two large guys armed with assault rifles, escorting people into a building where they are to be implanted with some sort of microchip / controlling device. Momentarily, a rift suddenly opens in the nearby forest and a man clad in white crawls out. He soon manages to pull a microchip out of someone, but is caught afterwards and brought before the man in black. The "man in white" is then chained between two trees and stoned to death by people clad in black clothing.

As the "man in black" checks on his victim, a group of people dressed in white arrive on the scene with red roses. They gently unchain the "man in white" and lay the roses upon him and… oooohhh…. I get it! The quote at the opening of the film was sort of like a prophecy of sorts for this unnamed Jesus-like figure! Right? (Oh hell, I don’t know! This is so frustrating! I’ll just ask Kipp about it when I interview him in next month’s issue!) Well in any case, that last scene ends the film, and it made me scratch my head like a perplexed ape staring into a mirror. Dreadful is very much an arthouse film and relies on actions rather than words to move the story along.

This in itself isn’t such a bad thing (film makers did it back in the early 1900s before "talkies" were invented), but I think the movie would make more sense if there had been some dialogue, or even a narrator that would pop in and out to at least deliver some sort of explanation! This lack of narrative boggled my mind and incidentally caused me to dislike Dreadful. Yes this is a fifteen minute short film, but still, it should have a discernible beginning, middle, and end. Seriously, a little talking would’ve went a long way here! Despite this (what I would consider a major) flaw, I do have to admit that Dreadful is shot very well and is quite moody and atmospheric at times. The film’s black & white imagery, along with the creepy music (supplied by Chamber of Sorrows) set a mood of dread, but in the end, it’s all for naught.

Dreadful is the latest from Kipp "Poe" Speicher and the film’s DVD is packed with extras! There’s two trailers for this film, as well as some behind-the-scenes featurettes, and it’s all topped off with Kipp’s other short films, including: Hitcher, Stranger Than, Reflections from the Other Side, and the Dead Bodies Trilogy. I haven’t had the chance to go through all of it, but it’s obvious that Kipp has a style all his own. To find out more about Kipp and his films (especially Dreadful), be sure to read my interview with him next month right here at Rogue Cinema!