Dammit, teens, when are you going to learn no amount of social media follows is worth venturing into haunted abandoned buildings? For the sake of horror movies, I hope the answer is never. And at least they didn’t learn before Kimo Stamboel—one half of the Indonesian filmmaking duo The Mo Brothers (Headshot)—delivered his first solo directorial effort, DreadOut.
The story revolves around Linda (Caitlin Halderman). Nursing deep trauma from her youth, she’s a good kid who works double shifts instead of being social so she can take care of her vaguely ill father. But when her classmates Jessica (Marsha Aruan), Beni (Irsydillah), Dian (Susan Sameh), Alex (Ciccio Manassero), and Erik (Jefri Nichol) need her help to sneak into the aforementioned building, looking to stream the adventure and bolster their following, they find themselves in a struggle for survival against evil magic, supernatural monsters, and weird water portals that appear in the middle of apartments.
Based on a popular indie video game, DreadOut wears this origin on its sleeve. We get long, first-person tracking shots down hallways, the plot is full of side quests, ascending levels, and scenes where the players must piece together clues, just like in gameplay. Outside of Linda, the characters are generally flat, one-note types, the kind you so often come across in video games—there’s the prankster, the sensitive hunk, the priss, the mean girl.
DreadOut doesn’t open up any new territory in this regard, but it’s a solid, creepy horror outing that’s eerie and unsettling, even if a bit predictable. Beyond the game, it also bears an aesthetic similarities to May the Devil Take You, from Timo Tjahjanto—the other Mo Brother—which Stamboel produced. But the influences run a wide gamut. It calls to mind other video game movies, but also watches a bit like an evil Jumanji, owes a debt to social media horror like Unfriended, and is a spiritual successor to an earlier generation of supernatural Indonesian horror, like Mystics in Bali.
DreadOut is something of a horror grab bag. It entails witches and zombies and possession, nods back to schlocky ‘80s genre cheese, and plays up the haunted house elements. But while it treads familiar ground, it also adds a few updates and fresh flourishes, like using cell phones as weapons in an inventive way. Even with that, there’s not much originality to find—which is sure to disappoint and put off some—but it is a solid, entertaining teens-in-peril jaunt.
Quick, fast-paced, and surprisingly well-lit for a horror movie, DreadOut delivers an engaging genre adventure. Now that both the Mo Brothers have ventured into their own solo projects, it’s obvious that neither one shouldered more of the load and that both are talented and contributed to their joint efforts. If this is Kimo Stamboel’s first individual effort, we have a lot to look forward to and the state of Indonesia genre cinema is in good hands for the foreseeable future. And remember, kids, the clicks ain’t worth the carnage.