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Written and directed by Kimo Stamboel, Dreadout (2019) is based on an Indonesian survival horror game that was developed by Digital Happiness and released in 2014. As with the game, the film centres on a group of teenagers who find themselves embroiled in a paranormal mystery. While the game has the ill-fated youth stumble upon a deserted town, the film’s haunted happenings take place in an abandoned building with an unsavoury history, surrounded by lush greenery and impassable gates. 

Aspiring influencers Jessica (Marsha Aruan), Alex (Ciccio Manassero), Dian (Susan Sameh), Beni (Irsyadillah), and Erik (Jefri Nichol) plot to break into the building and livestream their exploration in order to go viral and boost their follower counts, which is an increasingly (and unfortunately?) relatable goal. Unable to traverse the gates without a key, they coax younger student Linda (Caitlin Halderman) to join them—acquainted with security guard Heri (Mike Lucock), she holds the literal and figurative key to ensuring their success. Lacking confidence in the building’s ability to provide authentic horror, the group attempt to hoax ghost sightings for their livestream but are stymied by a lack of cellular reception. In an attempt to regain a bar or two, they trespass into a forbidden area of the building—a set of rooms that served as the setting of a terrible crime years before. When the group discovers a set of mysterious parchments, Linda soon discovers that she has a special sensitivity to the sinister forces concentrated in the rooms and an ability to see things that her companions cannot. Having never seen a horror film herself, Linda reads aloud the glowing red words that appear on an otherwise blank piece of parchment. Naturally, this opens a portal to a hellish otherworld, containing the requisite Big Boss and a number of lesser adversaries. In our heroine’s inventory are a smartphone, a hell-born parchment, and a cursed knife. Game on.

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Dreadout features decent performances, with Halderman and Aruan being particular standouts. The premise is interesting enough, and the first act is fun and well-executed. The effects are well done and a few of the more visual sequences are genuinely skin-crawling. Where the film suffers is in its pacing and a certain looseness in its script—a film that runs 97 minutes should not wind up feeling 20 minutes too long. The action swings back and forth between the real world and the otherworld so many times, you’d expect that Linda should be receiving frequent flyer miles. The primary antagonist, the Red Kebaya Lady (Rima Melati Adams) is menacing, sure, but would have benefited from more character development. Dreadout had the opportunity to more effectively flesh out its sinister underworld in the manner of Silent Hill, and at certain points in the film demonstrates the potential for a fully-realized otherworld: genuinely creepy set design and hints of dark lore gesture toward the film that Dreadout could have been, had it taken the time to deepen its exploration of the world beyond the portal. Perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the inevitable sequel.

Score: 5 out of 10 insta followers.

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