Movie Review: ‘Escape Room’


Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani

Plot: Six strangers are invited to participate in a high stakes Escape Room challenge, only to find that it is life and death.

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Review: You can imagine it…a group of suits sitting around a conference table. Word from the top was clear: make a new Saw franchise. Do it cheap, and do it fast, and link it to current trends. Social media and haunted Skype calls have been done…what about those ‘Escape Room’ things? We don’t even need to change much! Just make sure it’s got PG level violence and a set up for a sequel.

So we got Escape Room. It’s Saw, but with Escape Rooms. Also kinda dumb, and doesn’t feel like the passion project Saw was before it was sequelled to death. But even a cheap knock-off horror film could be fun. Let’s try to have fun.

We begin with three characters – shy and nervous physics student Zoey, down and out grocery boy Ben and cold-blooded investor Jason. We get some establishing information about their basic traits and then they all receive a mysterious puzzle box. Upon solving it they find an invitation to Minos, the self proclaimed most immersive Escape Room available with the promise of a $10,000 prize. After spending the first act building up our main characters they then arrive at the Escape Room where we meet three more characters who outright explain to the audience and each other who they are. Not even the established characters to any real degree. Now we have veteran soldier Amanda, trucker Mike and nerd Danny. Then they’re all really shitty and unlikable.

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Before long our characters and red shirts find themselves in a dangerous Escape Room where they risk death if they cannot solve the clues. It also becomes very clear that whoever put the rooms together have intimate knowledge of their victims. It’s slowly revealed that each player is the sole survivor of a terrible disaster and they’re not all going to be make it out alive.

Getting into spoiler territory here, but it took a while for me to get into the swing of things. The cold open sees a lone survivor solving puzzles to get through a room before it crushes him to death. Fine unto itself, but they added a really awkward ADR of the character explaining everything they’re doing out loud. We’re not that stupid, movie. After the clunky introduction to the characters the first two rooms are also pretty dumb. The first room turning into an oven is cool, but the puzzle involves putting cups of water on weight sensing coasters on the table. BUT *gasp* they’re running out of water! So piss in the cup. Or put something else in it. There’s stuff all over the room, stack them up on top of the coaster. Or turn the table upside down and put the cups under the coasters.

The second room involves working out a seven letter password with the clue being “you’ll go down in history”. They immediately jump to the conclusion that it must be a president’s name? Somehow? It’s only after an extended sequence in a WINTER CABIN decorated with ANTLERS that one of them realises that the antlers are from reindeer…AND THEN that each set of antlers has a letter on them…AND THEN that the letters could correspond to Santa’s reindeer…

Guys. It was not that hard.

I had given up on the movie at this point, but it strangely started to draw me in. The next couple of puzzle rooms are creative, nicely designed and they draw out the suspense in an effective manner. The upside-down billards room is easily the high point of the movie and has a clever multi-part puzzle. The next few sequences are decent enough to drive the story towards the conclusion.

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During the final act Escape Room the movie gives itself a strain trying to include some clever twists and turns. They stretch the credibility beyond breaking point, with the shady organisation making the entire set-up vanish within the space of what could only be a few hours. We’re talking an entire frozen lake rigged with explosives, a room sized oven with flame throwers and a warehouse sized elevator. No, I do not believe you. They then add a few more nonsense twists for good measure, just to lay out a bunch of sequels. Then they finish with stealing one of Jigsaw’s most famous lines from Saw.

If you’re the type who enjoys crappy Saw knock-offs you will enjoy this. It’s not a good movie by any stretch, but it’ll do.

Rating: FOUR out of TEN

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