Escape Room is better than most that come out of the January film scrap heap, as long as you give yourself over to a contrived plot that is only worth the price of admission if you are fine with whodunit clichés.
The escape room fad will eventually fade away like dance marathons, garbage pail kids, and planking. What won’t ever go out of style is the timeless dumping of films during January. Escape Room is better than most that come out of the top of this month’s scrap heap. That’s providing you give yourself over to thrills being generated by a contrived plot. The film introduces us to six people who have come to an oddly ominous building. They are to partake in the immersive experience for various personal reasons. Still, mostly, they were all given a chance to win $10,000 if they escape. I’m thinking that should have been a tip-off right away that something sinister is going on. Since, you know, competitive escape rooming isn’t, a thing. Yet.
u have the shy one, Zoey (Taylor Russell), a down on his luck alcoholic stock boy named Ben (aka Martin from Love, Simon), workaholic Jason (Jay Ellis), a headstrong Army veteran Amanda (Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll), a working-class middle-aged man who’s is trying to put away some scratch for retirement, Tyler (New Amsterdam’s Mike Nolan), and Escape Room aficionado Danny (Alex Strangelove’s Nik Domdni), all strangers who now must work together to win the game. I guess there is nothing like life and death to test the meaning of teamwork. Personally, I think it would have worked better as a work retreat with bickering coworkers, but to each his own
This horror thriller was directed by Adam Robitel (director of Insidious: The Last Key and briefly as “Guy on the Line” in the original X-Men film), and much of the look of the film, each “room” in particular, is cleverly constructed. Escape Room offers solid thrills while declining to resort to the slasher-porn techniques the genre is so fond of nowadays. Most of the cast is fine; Russell has real quality as the mousy Zoey, which effectively depicts her shy and anxious personality. Russell may need more seasoning for more complex roles as an actress, but the talent is there.
It is always a welcome addition on-screen, offering moments of well-placed comic relief. Wall is more than up to the task of playing a kick-ass woman of action who must overcome her own personal demons. The real issue is the cheesy dialogue filled with platitudes. The flashback scenes are brief but over the top. Even though the script’s escape rooms are adeptly realized, the overall scenes are clichés we have seen multiple times before. This essentially has the script boxing itself in.
Escape Room owes thanks to previous but far superior films, like the Michael Douglas vehicle The Game and Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods. As horror thrillers go, this isn’t nearly as downtrodden as some of the fright fest films that have come out this decade. That credit should be given for creating thrills without gratuitous violence (almost). If only the film didn’t resort to one of the worst trends of 2018, the set up for a sequel. I will give the film credit for at least landing the feeling of a completed film idea rather than a film launching point for a franchise.
Unfortunately, the last five minutes felt like it was added after test audiences gave it high marks). After watching Replicas this past week, I think I have come to appreciate the film more – I’ve already pledged to make that the 2019 film grading curve, but that doesn’t mean it is more recommendable than a rental.