Movie Review: ‘No Escape Room’

For those who are just joining us…we fell down a rabbit hole of weird Escape Room movies. We know the 2019 movie Escape Room that was a bit of a success, but then we stumbled across a 2017 Escape Room. Whilst looking into this one we found ANOTHER 2017 Escape Room and from there we came across the 2018 No Escape Room. Well, it has a different title. Let’s go!

Director: Alex Merkin

Cast: Jeni Ross, Mark Ghanimé, Hamza Haq, Kathryn Davis, Dennis Andres

Plot: A someone estranged father and daughter decide to take in a horror themed Escape Room during a road trip. When the theming turns out to be a little bit more realistic than is comfortable they hurry to find their way out.

Review: Each of these Escape Room movies begins the same way: with hugely unlikeable characters. Keep in mind that this isn’t a slasher movie where we know that the unlikeable character is going to end up with a machete through their essential parts, these are the characters we want to see succeed. We should find them empathetic. Our teen protaganist Karen (Ross) is an obnoxious brat and her poor dad Michael (Ghanimé) is just trying to smooth things out with her. Maybe this is the high school teacher in me, but this kind of behaviour really rubs me the wrong way.

When their car breaks down in small town America, and little options to pass the time, they decide to head to a local Escape Room held in a nearby manor. Unlike the previous two films the players are not a group of friends, but strangers all their for their own reasons who get put together because they happen to be there for the same session. Melanie (Davis) is celebrating her birthday and dragged along her grumpy boyfriend Tyler (Haq), while Andrew (Andres) claims that his therapist suggesting he try some collaborative group activities. Having the characters meet this way means that we learn about them in an organic way rather than a dinner scene where they express their one personality trait like in some Escape Room movies I might mention.

I will say this – of all the Escape Room movies we’ve been watching lately, this is the one that looks the most fun. It’s a huge, elaborate series of puzzles with clever solutions and a fantastic lore to tie it all together. This is a really fun looking experience…without all the spooky shit, of course. They’re greeted by an in-character host who serves them chai and explains that an inventor did some weird stuff here and five people vanished. There’s even an old-fashioned movie to set the scene, and there’s something about old surgery stuff that’s always unsettling. When they get into the room, some of the characters piss around prodding stuff while others enthusiastically hunt for clues. They’re not the world’s most developed characters but they feel real.

There’s quite a bit we like about this movie. The haunted house that is part of a machine used to commune with the dead connects really well with the Escape Room motif, with all the genre staples of moving scenery, time loops and unrealistic geometry. It’s absolutely taken a leaf from the book of House on Haunted Hill, and with it comes the characters unable to work out if this is real or an elaborate set-up.

At this point, the review is very positive, but it’s going to end with a mediocre score. This is in part because this is being compared to the 2017 Escape Room movies and that makes anything look good. There are also a few issues we can’t over look. There’s no enough material and set-pieces to make up the running time, so they wind up retreating the same ground a few times. Even with the time-looping concept it starts to feel repetitive. The ending is also pretty vague. It’s ok leaving some things unexplained, but it doesn’t give us enough to form our own conclusions. It just…ends. For everything it does well it’s a shame to leave on an unsatisfying note.

Still…best of these three.

Rating: SIX out of TEN

Now I suspect there’s more Escape Room themed movies out there…but we’ve had enough. Please don’t tell us about them.