A haunting good time?
Do you know what the cinema world lacks? More horror video game adaptations that focus more on the horror & dread aspects. Say what you will about Silent Hill nowadays, but at least its movie adaptations are arguably well-produced and evoke that sense of dread from a standard script and plot outline.
Such is the case of the latest Indonesian movie DreadOut, based on the pretty decent indie survival horror game where your phone camera is your go-to tool to navigate the spirit realm. The plotline is more or less the same; school kids accidentally open up a spirit realm in a scary abandoned apartment complex somewhere in Indonesia.
Our heroic schoolgirl, Linda (Caitlin Halderman), is the only one among the group in tuned to the spectral universe due to her past, portrayed in a pretty harrowing and well-executed intro leading to the present day. The group need to find out how to deal with the problem while also being assaulted by DreadOut’s killing machine: the Red Kebaya Lady. Oh, and the other dead spirits and zombies in the way.
Frame of Mind
I’ll say this: Indonesia’s horror scene is never short on atmosphere and effects. Once the heroes enter the spirit world, the chills mix well with the beautiful yet eerie landscapes, interiors, and even the barong-themed trinkets laid out in some ghost woman’s cupboard. The soundtrack also deserves mentioning: it effectively uses traditional Balinese instruments and percussions to evoke a uniquely creepy feel when the bad stuff happens. Look no further than DreadOut’s production values and cinematography if you want this year’s best fantastical horror setting (so far).
The cast itself is great. It’s obvious that the main brunt of the DreadOut “Scooby Gang” is on Caitlin’s Linda, so props to her for carrying the film with her balancing act of distressed heroine who evolves into someone who has to really fight for her life using her patented phone camera. Marsha Aruan’s Jessica goes from teen clique bitch obsessed with livestream likes to spirit victim, while Rima Melati Adams portrays the show’s horror centerpiece Red Kebaya Lady as the force of nature that torments the group.
The Lady’s body movement, her expressions, her lust for human flesh, and her angry disposition is DreadOut’s highlight.
A pity that the rest of the side cast from Jefri Nichol’s Erik and Irsyadillah’s Beni are just that: typical fodder that serves to help and forward the pacing along without standing out at all. Though to be fair, there is an expected twist involving the latter character that at least makes the group’s early actions justifiable.
The biggest gripe is that from start to finish, you don’t feel any worry for the heroes despite their dumb and irrational decisions in the spectral world. That fear of death for the heroes seem as flimsy as its entire payoff. As soon as the second and third act have the “victims” returning to the real world through a series of chases & life-threatening events, the show’s doorway becomes less of a harrowing portcullis and more of a revolving door.
And while it’s essential for Linda’s phone to work and keep the evil spirits away, it feels like a convenient deus ex machina that’s used on the last minute because the director and movie want to accentuate the scares and practical effects.
Barring the first spectral world jump session and the climax where Linda’s truly in danger, every other scare and action scene have the heroes saved at the last minute in typical fashion thanks to the device. At the very least, the filmmakers should not make this bit too obvious and stark to the point of repetition.
I’m all for traditional scares and horror as long as it’s executed well. And DreadOut shows signs of that in its production and initial direction. I just wish the second half of the film delivered more thrills and better-paced and well thought-out scares and resolutions instead of what I ended up with: a downward spiral towards blandness.