Kimo Stamboel Brings Out the Ghosts in 'DreadOut'


JANUARY 03, 2019

Jakarta. Kimo Stamboel and his partner-in-gore Timo Tjahjanto – together they make up The Mo Brothers – have already established their reputation as Indonesia's masters of schlock and gore with 2009's slasher horror "Macabre" and 2016's action thriller "Headshot."

This year, though, Kimo has decided to go it alone for the first time since he made his student horror movie "Bunian" in 2004 – about an Indonesian student living in a haunted flat in Sydney – by releasing a new horror film based on a ghost story taken from the hyped Indonesian online game, "DreadOut."

The film is released nationwide on Thursday (03/01).

At a press screening on Tuesday, Kimo told reporters he started paying attention to DreadOut the game after watching a review by YouTuber Felix Kjellberg a.k.a. PewDiePie – one of the biggest YouTube personalities in the world with almost 80 million subscribers.

PewDiePie has released several video reviews of the game, the first of which was posted in 2013 and has now been seen by 11 million people..

"The game is so cool. It's got everything, even a pocong [corpse in a shroud] holding a sickle. I thought, if I were going to make another horror movie [on my own], I’d start with this story. This is pure ghosty, mystical horror," he said.

DreadOut is also one of a few locally made games that have been featured on the international gaming platform Steam.

Kimo contacted Digital Happiness, the game's publishing company, to see if they would be interested in making a movie about DreadOut.

As luck would have it, the company was also planning to adapt the story into a film.

Kimo met producers Edwin Nazir and Wida Handoyo soon after. They pitched the idea to local production houses Sky Media, Nimpuna Sinema and Lyto Game, also South Korea’s CJ Entertainment.

Wida said her company jumped at the opportunity to produce this film because she "wanted to make a breakthrough by merging the game and film industries [in Indonesia]."

"In Indonesia, there hasn’t been anything like this [game-to-film adaptation], we want to be a pioneer in this field. Hollywood already has had a lot of success with this genre here. This made us certain that DreadOut could be a box office hit here, too," Wida said.

Overall, DreadOut took four years to make and needed a budget of about Rp 10 billion ($690,000), mostly spent on its admittedly stunning visual effects.

Wida said international distribution for the film – mostly in Asia Pacific – is being negotiated at the moment.

Prequel to the Game

DreadOut the film tells the story of six high-school students who visit an abandoned apartment to shoot some live videos that they think will gain them more social media followers.

While scouring the apartment, one of the students, Linda (Caitlin Halderman) accidentally reads a mantra on a discarded paper that opens a portal to a mystical realm.

As the ghosts in the apartment awaken, all hell breaks loose.

The film adaptation came with a few adjustments because Kimo intended it to be a prequel to the story line in the game.

"I asked the producers if we could deviate a little from the game, mainly because the game is so much bigger in scale," he said.

Gamers may wonder who the other four students – apart from the OG Linda and her best friend Ira – are, since they never appeared in the game.

The rest of the film stayed faithful to the original story, featuring all types of ghosts that appeared in the game, and even going so far as keeping its elements of Sundanese culture.

Kimo said he eventually wants to create a DreadOut universe and more movies and TV or web series, so it was necessary to create new characters and to establish Linda’s backstory.

Bracing for Criticism

Apart from finding out a way to bring a believable experience of the game to the big screen, another tough challenge for Kimo when making DreadOut was toning down the scariness and bloodiness to get a 17+ rating.

All Kimo's other movies were rated 21+ by the Film Censorship Board (LSF).

"At first we even thought of going for 13+, but that would have required too many cuts, so we settled for 17+," he said.

Kimo said the film will be a fun treat both for fans of the game and non-gamers who have never played it, though the former will be harder to please.

"Of course there’s huge pressure. Hopefully, gamers won’t criticize it too harshly. There's rarely any good game adaptations, if you ask them. They'll pick over the tiniest flaws, even in "Tomb Raider" or "Resident Evil." They fairly roasted them. But I hope this film can satisfy even diehard DreadOut fans," Kimo said.