Dreadout [Fantasia International Film Festival Review]

Here in America, we're used to seeing movies based on video games – and used to them being awful. Out of all that have been made, only one has a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes: Pokemon Detective Pikachu. By virtue of this fact, it's interesting to see how video games are adapted in other countries. Dreadout, which screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, is an Indonesian film inspired by a survival horror video game that was very popular there a few years ago. The movie takes that gaming subgenre seriously, delivering ninety-seven minutes of near non-stop freakiness.

The set-up is established quickly. A group of teens hopes to go viral by hosting a live broadcast from a creepy abandoned building. They've been told not to go on the 6th floor, as that is where a weird cult held a catastrophic ritual many years prior. Of course, that's exactly where they go. It doesn't take long before they've opened up a water-based portal to another realm, where some of them get lost, and where they're stalked by all manner of terrifying creatures, including a mysterious woman in red.

Dreadout shares some of the same problems that typically plague American video game movies. For starters, the characters are utterly cardboard. The only one with the semblance of a personality is Linda (Caitlin Halderman), the general protagonist because of a connection she has to the 6th floor. Another familiar flaw is that the film confuses creating a backstory with having an actual plot. Ample time is spent with everyone trying to figure out what happened years before and what the portal means, but the here-and-now is basically them just attempting to outrun whatever spooky entity is chasing them at any given moment.

On the plus side, Dreadout was made by Kimo Stamboel, who co-directed the terrific 2016 Indonesian action flick Headshot. He knows how to dazzle you visually. Every shot in this movie is stylishly achieved, with grey overtones helping to create an ominous atmosphere. The way the portal opens up – as a circular pool in the middle of a rotting old apartment – is suitably menacing. Levitating people, enveloping fog, and dead-eyed creature attacks appear throughout. Having the flash from Linda's cell phone camera serve as a weapon against all the supernatural beings is cool. So is a climactic scene in which someone gets stuck in a pit in the ground, where arms burst through the dirt to grab them.

For whatever it lacks story-wise, Dreadout gives you full-throttle survival horror madness from start to finish. It is not boring. The importance of that cannot be understated. Most American video game movies are boring as hell. This one is not boring.

Dreadout


Dreadout is unrated, but contains creature violence, and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.