One half of the Mo Brothers takes on a popular Indonesian survival horror video game for his first solo gig…
Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, better known as the Mo Brothers, have been at the forefront of the recent surge in Indonesian genre cinema, having been responsible for a number of international hits including Killers, Headshot and Macabre. With Timo Tjahjanto having gone solo behind the camera with May the Devil Take You and The Night Comes for Us, Kimo Stamboel now steps up with DreadOut – an interesting choice for a debut, given that it’s a video game adaptation, a notoriously difficult form to pull off. The game in question is a popular Indonesian survival horror, similar to the Japanese Fatal Frame series in that it involves defeating evil spirits using flashlights and mobile phones.
The film opens with a flashback to an exorcism by a cult going badly wrong, with the police storming in and stopping the rite before it can be completed. Things skip to the present day, with a young schoolgirl called Linda (Caitlin Halderman) agreeing to join her friends in a plan to livestream from the now-abandoned apartment building where the exorcism took place. Despite being warned by an easily-led security guard not to go to the sixth floor, the gang head straight there, and soon manage to open a portal to another world, filled with sinister ghosts and creatures. Possession quickly becomes the order of the day, and with a mysterious woman in red on her trail, Linda is forced to confront the past as she tries to find a way to save her friends.
Without being familiar with the original video game, although the Fatal Frame similarities are there, it’s obvious from early on that the main influence on DreadOut was The Evil Dead, with Kimo Stamboel lifting a number of scenes as well as the central demonic possession gag. However, while Raimi’s classics were a wild, though tight and intense mix of horror and slapstick humour, DreadOut sadly never manages to keep things focused, weighed down by a plot which not only makes little sense, but which is unevenly paced and rather random in the way which it leaps back and forth between the real world and the alternate dimension. Although the film is supposedly a prequel of sorts to the game, there’s almost nothing in the way of backstory either for the evil realm or the faceless teens, with two mid-credit scenes suggesting that this may (or may not) be explored in sequels. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to really engage with the film, and it feels underdeveloped throughout, and even more generic than it otherwise might have.
On the plus side, Kimo Stamboel is undoubtedly a very talented director, and as shown by his films with Timo Tjahjanto is very capable when it comes to creative camera work and nicely-designed set pieces and scenes of carnage. Though DreadOut seems more aimed at the teen market, with little gore or splatter, it’s boosted by some impressive visuals, including handsome sets and above-average makeup and CGI work. The supernatural action is fun to watch, and the film constantly seems to be teetering on the point of really bursting into life, something which never quite happens, falling again and again back into a loop of one character escaping from the portal, only for another to fall back in, or another possession scene yielding the exact same results.
This makes DreadOut a frustrating experience, as there’s clearly the potential here for Kimo Stamboel to have made something far more kinetic and crazed than a somewhat toothless teen Evil Dead retread. To be fair, there is enough to make it a vaguely enjoyable, if forgettable hour and a half of mild entertainment for horror fans, though there’s little of the far-out enthusiasm which marked most of the Mo Brothers’ output, or indeed Timo Tjahjanto’s own solo efforts, and anyone expecting this will likely be disappointed.