Dreadout: Tower Of Hell


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dreadout: Tower Of Hell
"It's all fun and games until somebody decides to read ancient manuscripts aloud." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

If you've played the 2014 computer game on which it's based, you'll have a pretty good idea what to expect from Fantasia 2019 pick Dreadout: Tower Of Hell. If not, you'll find it easy enough to get into this teen-focused supernatural horror adventure tale. Trying hard to be gritty and grimy, it's mostly just murky, but there are some nice little flourishes along the way.

The film opens with what might be a memory or might be a preternatural dream sequence in which a child is held hostage and watches as her mother is forced to read out an incantation intended to open a portal to Hell (or to another dimension - there's a sense here that something may have been lost in translation). The ceremony is interrupted, resulting in some kind of calamity. The dreamer is Linda, a teenager dozing off in class. She's struggling to cope with the pressure of her studies, caring for her ailing father, and working in a convenience store to save up for college. Despite this, she is persuaded to join a group of her schoolmates as they spend the evening breaking into an abandoned block of flats, aiming to make some social media capital out of a visit to a supposedly haunted apartment - one that looks very like the one Linda just saw with her eyes closed.

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Most horror fans will be familiar wit this kind of party. There's a bit of teasing, a bit of flirting, the discovery of bizarre occult symbols on the walls and floor, and it's all fun and games until somebody decides to read ancient manuscripts aloud. The next thing you know, you're outside in the dark, everyone is screaming and you're trying to explain to a distinctly unimpressed security guard that two of your friends just drowned after falling into a whirlpool in a sixth floor apartment.

That's what happens to most of the gang. Linda and the other missing girl haven't so much drowned, however, as been sucked into another dimension. There they must battle rather bland zombies and overdressed snake-jawed women in an attempt to get home again.

It's a little bit more complicated than that, but not much. Throw in multiple trips through the portal, a spate of possession, a bit of mutilation and an argument over a traditional keris (kris) knife. There's also some interesting work around the primary gimmick used in the game - that fact that even when faced with the terrors of the spirit world, these kids can't keep their eyes off their mobile phones. Linda inadvertently discovers that she can use hers to help her do battle with her new foes and although this is overused, sapping the tension in some key action scenes, the basic idea of the phone as this dimension's magic item is nicely integrated.

Caitlin Halderman makes a solid lead, doing her best to react naturally in even the most unlikely situations, but she doesn't have a lot to work with. Her young co-stars suffer because there are simply too many of them and few are given distinctive personalities or the opportunity to develop. We have to simply accept the way we're told that they feel about each other without much natural chemistry or the sort of exchanges that might let us see those dynamic play out.

All in all, Dreadout captures the spirit of the game a little too successfully where one might have hoped that it would have the courage to abandon the weaker elements and go its own way. There's too much padding and two many pieces of dialogue are inserted like cut scenes to justify the action. The action itself works well enough, however, and if you're seeking entertainment for a late night party with chips and cheap cider whilst somebody's parents are away, this could be just the thing.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2019
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A group of young people keen to look good on social media break into an abandoned apartment and accidentally open a portal to another realm.

Director: Kimo Stamboel

Writer: Kimo Stamboel

Starring: Caitlin Halderman, Jefri Nichol, Marsha Aruan, Ciccio Manassero, Susan Sameh, Irsyadillah, Miller Khan

Year: 2019

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore


Fantasia 2019

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