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Review DreadOut (2019): Adaptation of the videogame!

genre: adventure, fantasy, horror

The original DreadOut is a survival horror video game from independent developer Digital Happiness for Microsoft Windows, Linux, and OS X, which was released in 2014. This game was heavily inspired by Fatal Frame but used Indonesian mythical ghosts. 

Now, I am not going to pretend I know a lot about this game. I never played it. I honestly haven't heard about it until I came across this film. But I have seen some gameplay footage, and it looked like a forgotten PS2 title with some enhancements. And that is me being gracious. Compared to Fatal Frame a.k.a. Project Zero it looks subpar. That isn't real surprising since this independent developer only had 20 people working on it. 

This game must have been popular enough to warrant a film adaptation, and I see why. The game is full of atmosphere and mythical enemies that potentially could provide a lot. If not for the bad writing and direction. Kimo Stamboel is the one responsible, and for the most part he botched it. To be fair, the videogame also makes the mistake to be focused on action instead of instilling dread. This is why, you rarely have quiet moments in the film. You barely get a moment to take in the surroundings and settings. From what I could see, there was enough present to build up the creepiness. I will never understand why film directors opt for cheap thrills and action in favour of creepiness. In the long run, that is the one element that will remain. This film also neglects to give you an explanation of what is going on. Not even a proper motivation for the group of teenagers to visit this abandoned apartment complex where bad things have happened. It's quite obvious that Linda, our lead, has something to do with this. Only she seems to have forgotten what has occurred to her in the past. Perhaps it was the intention to use this plot element as a surprise, but Stamboel couldn't even do that right.

In my opinion, Kimo had enough to at least focus on the main antagonist and have her fleshed out more. I don't know if this is part of the videogame, but in Fatal Frame, you usually get to find more about the ghosts and enemies you are confronted with. There is a reason why they are ghosts and haven't moved on. Discovering these details helps build up the tension, but also makes everything much more compelling. Leaving it out only hurts the viewing experience. DreadOut feels like it started with good intentions, forsake the horror and then focused on the fantasy adventure elements without actually backing that up with a solid story and characterization. So it's not super bad but could be considered a waste of time anyway!

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