There’s an inherent restlessness in the face of the unknown, perpetually stoking curiosity. Intentionally or otherwise, this very restlessness is what renders Dreadful Chapters a compelling viewing experience. Hailing from the Malayalam film landscape, this indie production brims with potential, laying the groundwork for the burgeoning career of Indian-born director Nirmal Baby Varghese. As his follow-up to the pioneering Malayalam found footage horror, Vazhiye, Dreadful Chapters embarks on a brave endeavor to craft a more conventional narrative while preserving an element of promise for what lies ahead in the director’s future creations.

The film follows a pretty straightforward and recognizable premise. Six friends embark on a group road trip, only to become marooned deep within a dense forest. During their vacation becomes a chain of chaotic events, they stumble upon a mysterious cave hidden within their vacation property. Intrigued by its presence, they venture into the depths of this enigmatic cavern, unaware of the horrors hidden within. Bottom line, it’s your usual getaway gone wrong routine.


A road trip gone awry is a common horror trope that resonates with horror enthusiasts, evoking a sense of terror through the unsettling seclusion from their familiar and secure surroundings. Films like Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods, Wrong Turn, Splinter, and many more derive their horror from this terrifying isolation. It’s akin to hurtling towards their own demise. Dreadful Chapters shares this theme, although its horror isn’t solely rooted in seclusion; rather, it thrives on the inherent restlessness borne from their journey. The horrors of restlessness manifest as morbid curiosity.

The group, realizing their vacation has taken an unexpected turn, grapples with frustration and resorts to indulging in whatever is at hand to salvage their trip. Surprisingly unfazed by their isolation, their outward composure exudes an eerie sense of horror. Unaware of the lurking malevolence among them, they become too restless to remain confined within the house and bravely venture outside, unequipped, even exploring a cave system unbeknownst to them from the start.


This premise draws parallels to the 2004 film The Descent, where a group of female friends willingly delve into a foreboding cave, embracing the same sense of trepidation as they willingly enter a claustrophobic space devoid of safety assurances. This is the essence of the film—a promise that unfolds with spine-chilling anticipation. Although this unique setup is relatively rare, Dreadful Chapters effectively capitalizes on it, building suspense that culminates in unexpected horror during the film’s climactic moments. However, the film’s indie production does introduce filler scenes and drawbacks, detracting somewhat from the overall intended impact.

Certainly, indie films often grapple with the need to extend runtime, sometimes resulting in excessive use of prolonged montage shots to establish crucial plot points. In the case of Dreadful Chapters, this indulgence becomes apparent, particularly in the extensive use of montages showcasing the friends’ bonding throughout their trip. While intended to prolong the film, this approach lacks a nuanced portrayal of their camaraderie, reducing their connection to mere clipped shots set against a blaring EDM soundtrack.

Moreover, the sound design exacerbates the issue, as ill-fitting music choices can undermine the film’s intended atmosphere. The presence of mismatched, upbeat electronic tracks in parts of the film creates a discordant tone, occasionally veering into a somewhat goofy and incongruous vibe that does not align with the video’s intended narrative. These script and technical challenges compound the struggles of an already fragile storytelling.

Indeed, the cave system within the film presents a fascinating element, serving as the origin of unexplained events and offering a well-structured, labyrinthine backdrop ripe for horror exploration. Its complex layout and potential for intricate scares remain somewhat underutilized, representing a missed opportunity to fully exploit the film’s horror potential.


The film concludes with a twist and a tantalizing cliffhanger, hinting at a sequel that holds promise for further narrative development. To enhance the overall impact and captivate the audience, it’s essential for the filmmakers, particularly Nirmal Baby Varghese, to leverage the assets they’ve established—the woods, the house, and the cave system. These settings provide a rich canvas for crafting innovative and chilling scares, offering ample potential to keep viewers entrapped with the story he wishes to tell.

By refocusing the film’s priority on the unexplored realms of horror within these backwoods and leveraging the mysteries hinted at in the cliffhanger, the filmmaker can demonstrate creativity and establish themselves as a promising force in the horror genre. Good thing that a sequel is up on the table, so that he can follow through with a much more mature, delectable, and memorable Asian horror offering that is not from the East.


More Film Reviews