Tuesday, July 16, 2019

In short: DreadOut (2019)

A bunch of teens really feel the need to improve their social media standing. Their plan of attack involves going to an empty, supposedly haunted apartment building somewhere in what I assume to be Jakarta to film themselves there encountering fake ghosts. They do need the help of sensible, lower class classmate Linda (Caitlin Halderman) who knows the security guard to get in, though, so she’s co-opted by the guy she clearly has a crush on, too, and we have our mandatory heroine who might be somewhat closer connected to the building than she knows herself.

Of course, the teens encounter rather more serious supernatural activity in the building than they would have wished for.

The Indonesian DreadOut, directed by Kimo Stamboel (once one half of the Mo Brothers), is based on the videogame of the same title. I haven’t played that one myself, so I can’t talk to how close the film is to the game, but I believe the repeated use of cellphone flashes as a weapon against the film’s monsters is taken right from the game – and isn’t terribly convincing on screen, I have to say.

On the other hand, even though the film as a whole keeps inside the lines of horror as a carnival ride, Stamboel is a perfectly talented barker, so most of the horror sequences are well-timed and much improved in their effectiveness by some pretty cool monster design. Pocong and other creatures of Indonesian folklore pop up, and those are of course creepy as hell when done right. Going by the director’s past, I would have expected a bit more blood and gore and a higher body count, but I don’t exactly need more dead teenagers in it to enjoy a film (though your mileage may vary, of course).

The film also puts some effort into creating the proper creepy mood, with set design that gets a lot of decrepit atmosphere out of a miniscule budget. And while the script isn’t exactly deep, it does make good use of the couple of locations it has to work with, and does know how to make the most out of the film’s weirder ideas, like the impossible circular, bottomless pool of water on the sixth floor of an apartment building that is a gate to somewhere else. What more could I ask of a videogame movie?

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