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Review: DREADOUT (2019) – Fantasia 2019

Kimo Stamboel was until recently one-half of The Mo Brothers directing team. They directed Macabre, Killers, and Headshot before splitting up. His former partner Timo Tjahjanto has gone on to give us The Night Comes For Us and May the Devil Take You. Now, Kimo makes his solo debut with Dreadout.

A prequel to the popular Indonesian video game of the same name, Dreadout follows a fairly familiar plot. A group of aspiring YouTube stars sneaking into an allegedly haunted building and find the stories are all too real. It seems Jessica (Marsha Aruan,13: The Haunted) is upset she has fewer followers than one of the junior girls. Beni (Irsyadillah) they do a live stream from a local apartment building where a cult met a violent end mid-ritual. They grab their friends and recruit Linda (Caitlin Halderman) since she knows the security guard and can get them in.

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They’re warmed not to go to the 6th floor, so of course, they do. They find some of the cult’s belongings, including some with writing only Linda can see. She reads it and opens a portal to another dimension. One ruled by Red Kebaya Lady (Rima Melati Adams) and her minions.

As might be expected from a video game adaptation, Dreadout isn’t particularly scary. It’s much closer in style to Resident Evil than Silent Hill as these films things go. And like that franchise it’s an entertaining action/horror hybrid with more in the way of fights, chases and jump scares than genuine horror. That said, there is a sickle wielding zombie type creature that makes a very effective first appearance clawing its way out of a grave. Sadly, we don’t get to see much of it.

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I wasn’t familiar with the original game, and after watching Dreadout I still can’t say I know much about it. For a prequel, it seems lacking in backstory and information. Writer/director Stamboel seems to have been interested in the game’s framework more than its details. This may disappoint fans of the game.

Another group likely to be disappointed are fans of Stamboel’s previous work. This doesn’t have the grim feel or intense violence of his work with Tjahjanto. Dreadout is a fairly lightweight, mainstream piece of teen horror. I was hoping for something a lot rougher than what was delivered, and it took me a bit to get over that disappointment.

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Actually, given the importance of a cursed dagger to the plot, I almost wish the script had gone in another direction and leaned on the Indonesian film, Barry Prima’s classic The Devil’s Sword. The results could have been enjoyably gonzo. As it is, Dreadout held my attention even though the post-credit sequences but wasn’t anything special.

Dreadout made its North American premiere at Fantasia 2019. I’m not sure what other dates are planned, there is a Facebook page for the film, but it’s in Indonesian. Just a hunch though, I’d expect this to turn up on Netflix, it fits in with their other international horror acquisitions.

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