J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Fantasia ’19: Dreadout


You can think of it as the Indonesian Silent Hill. Doesn’t that inspire bushels of confidence? It is the first Indonesian video game movie-adaptation, based on a locally produced horror-survival game. Staying alive will be no easy feat, but it never is in a Mo Brothers film. This time around, Kimo Stamboel helms on his own, bringing Dreadout to bigger screens, including Concordia’s SGWU theater, where it had its North American premiere during the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.

This will be a case of live by the smart phone, die by the smart phone, or vice versa. To score more followers than their upstart juniors, a group of well-heeled high school seniors decide to break into an abandoned apartment building that was the scene of a notorious crime. Super idea kids. Nothing could go wrong with that plan. To enter, they need the help of Linda, a financially strapped classmate.

Of course, we can immediately tell she was the terrified little girl who witnessed the disastrous exorcism during the prologue. Soon, she also starts regaining memories of that night when the entitled Scooby-Doo gang break through the old police tape cordoning off her former apartment. It had changed since she lived there. Much to everyone’s bafflement, there is now a deep pool right in the middle of the floor. Naturally, it turns out to be a portal to a sinister nether realm that pulls Linda and Jess (the queen bee) through to the other side.

This world is populated with demonic creatures, who all want a piece of Linda. Fortunately, she discovers the flash on her phone will keep them at bay—and possibly even vanquish them. Yes, much game-play-inspired demon flashing will transpire.

As half of the Mo Brothers tandem, with Timo Tjahjanto, Stramboel has jointly directed some pretty extreme movies, like Killers, but this time he goes it alone. The results are strangely ordinary, but the atmosphere is genuinely creepy. In fact, Silent Hill comparisons are indeed apt.

The set design and art direction of Dreadout are genuinely quite striking. The film looks good and Caitlin Haldman solidly anchors the film as down-to-earth Linda. On the other hand, the rest of her classmates are just generic horror movie teens. Only Mike Lucock really stands out from the pack, to any extent, as the older, more corruptible security guard.

Dreadout moves along at a respectable clip, but it has none of the visceral intensity of a film like Killers. It is mostly just okay, which is really the film’s biggest surprise. Still, by the standards of video game movie adaptations, it ranks up there, largely from lack of competition. Recommended for game fans, Dreadout had its North American debut at this year’s Fantasia.

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