Movie Review: ‘Escape Room’ (2017)

Director: Will Wernick

Cast: Evan Williams, Annabelle Stephens, Elisabeth Hower, Dan J. Johnson

Plot: Six friends enter a high-end escape room only to find that there are real dangers involved in failure.

Review: Did you know there was an Escape Room movie in 2017? Not the one with Deborah Ann Woll that was made by Adam Robitel and got a sequel. That one came out in cinemas in 2019. I was browsing online and I happened across a previous movie called Escape Room and the pictures didn’t look right. Yeah, someone was onto the whole gimmick earlier. This is all very circular, because the Escape Room craze was arguably kicked off by the movie Saw.

We open with a random guy getting killed in an Escape Room, presumably to set the stakes for the movie to come. With that said and done, it takes about an hour before the Escape Room of the movie’s main plot reveals itself to be deadly. I guess that’s not a surprise though, because they opened the movie with this unexpected turn. Then there’s a very long opening credits sequence with a voice over of someone being tortured for not solving the world’s most well known riddles. This doesn’t go anywhere.

It then takes a very, very long time for the story to start out. We get our main character, his girlfriend and their friends, none of whom are likeable. After a painful amount of time establishing these characters, they all get blindfolded and let into the Escape Room experience they’ve been invited to participate in. We can’t avoid comparing Escape Room to Escape Room, and the later movie is known for it’s incredible set design and building. This one looks like a pretty standard Escape Room. Still, if it’s got some fun puzzles and twists then we’re on board for the ride.

Unfortunately, the puzzles are pretty dumb. You would expect a challenging Escape Room to link a couple of clues and puzzles together to form a larger solution. Every one of these puzzles is one clue = one solution. Many of them don’t even have clues. For example, there’s a bunch of wires of different colours. A character decides that since the wires are all primary colours, they need to be grouped together thusly. That’s it. One of the opening puzzles is a combination lock on a chastity belt. There’s no clues to be found, but fortunately the characters deduce that you have to put in words to do with sex until it unlocks.

Speaking of the horny couple with the chastity belt, this is their only personality trait and they have to share it between them. These characters are horny, you see, and just want to have sex, talk about sex and tell everyone about the sex they have. They’re so horny they don’t even notice that they’re being bathed in acid fog and are so busy making out that they don’t notice that they’re LITERALLY melting. This is the level of character development we get for everyone, and everyone keeps telling each other what they’re one trait is.

The actors are not especially gifted, and add little more to the roles that are written. I feel that they are hard done by the editing. Whenever they’re having a conversation there’s a beat of silence before the response, making everything feel sluggish and awkward. If they’d cut the movie with a bit more snap it’ll be about 20 minutes shorter. The story has enough padding already with an entire diversion and puzzle trap that is just there to waste time.

Even more frustrating, if the characters had actually looked for clues at any point they’d have found the exit in moments. Instead they say ‘let’s look for clues!’ then gaze around for a few seconds before finding the one clue that’ll unlock the one puzzle.

Bad acting, bad writing, bad editing, and a rubbish ‘twist’ that sets up for a sequel that will never happen. They even hold off on the reveal of the villain even though it is painfully obvious who the culprit is.

Rating: TWO out TEN