DreadOut (2019) Review

DreadOut marks the first time in the history that an Indonesian film adapted from a PC game, which itself based on the hugely-popular survival horror game of the same name by the Bandung-based Digital Happiness.

In this big-screen adaptation served as a prequel to the game released in 2013, six high-school students visit a haunted abandoned apartment to do live streaming in order to gain more social media followers. Unfortunately, they end up making a huge mistake entering a particular forbidden room that has been sealed with police tapes. From there, they discover a seemingly blank parchment and one of them (Caitlin Halderman’s Linda) happens to be the only person with a mysterious gift who can see the ancient text. What follows next is a silly move where Linda literally reads a mantra appeared on the blank parchment, causing a portal to open on the floor that leads to another realm.

What initially interests me the most about DreadOut isn’t the fact this is Indonesia’s first game-to-movie adaptation but more of the particular director involved in this project. That director in question is Kimo Stamboel, formerly known as the one-half of The Mo Brothers alongside Timo Tjahjanto who ended up their creative partnership last year. Given his prior experience directing the acclaimed horror movie with Tjahjanto in 2009’s Macabre, I figured that DreadOut is right in his wheelhouse and would come up better than your average garden-variety survival-horror movie.

Unfortunately, Stamboel’s own paper-thin screenplay basically served more of an excuse to create a scene after scene of students running and screaming. Some scenes are well-staged with nifty camerawork and POV shots. But others tend to look repetitive to the point that the otherwise compact 95-minute running time quickly wearing out its welcome.

Despite being a prequel, there are little backstory offers in this movie. This is especially true with Caitlin Halderman’s Linda who plays as the main protagonist of the movie.  Other than the fact that Linda possesses a mysterious gift where she can see and read the mantra on the parchment and has a camera phone which able to hurt the ghosts with its flashing light, Stamboel fails to dig deeper into her character. This makes me wonder the whole point of making a prequel that has little interest to explore the origin of the otherworldly premise in the first place. Even the rest of the characters are disappointingly one-dimensional.

Still, the least saving grace in DreadOut is Stamboel’s technical know-how direction. Apart from the aforementioned unique camerawork and POV shots, he does a good job with the help of the special effects team to create a blend of decent CGI and practical makeup, notably on the Red Kebaya Lady played by Rima Melati Adams. There are some effective jump scares as well, while Stamboel made good use of the sound effect to evoke a sense of foreboding dread.

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