Escape Room, 2019.
Directed by Adam Robitel
Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani and Yorick van Wageningen
Six strangers find themselves in a maze of deadly mystery rooms, and must use their wits to survive.
Escape Room takes a lot of cues from a range of high concept thrillers such as Exam (2009), Cube (1997), with homages to Saw (2004) and many more (The Belko Experiment, Hostel) thrown in. Capitalising on the team building exercise that every corporate seems to think is a great idea, this time around our unsuspecting targets have all been selected to take part in a high intensity escape room experience. Once they’ve entered the high stakes game they realise that the traps are deadly and the consequence for failure is death.
What it lacks in originality, Escape Room makes up for in highly entertaining, stupid fun. The escape rooms are inventive – a room that transforms into an oven, a treacherous frozen lake – and the characters are thin but likeable enough. There are loads of inventive deaths and there are some genuinely tense moments throughout where you’re not sure how the team are going to escape. The players are a smorgasbord of characters that we’ve seen before. Amanda (Harper) is the tough veteran, Mike (Labine) the trusty father figure, Zoey (Russell) the quiet teen, Ben (Miller) is the burnout, Danny (Dodani) is the ultra-geek and Jason (Jay) is the slick and arrogant one. Having said this, the concept of Escape Room doesn’t allow for much character growth and this works within the context of the film. The screenwriters aren’t trying to make a bold statement, they want to entertain the audience and kill people in inventive ways. All of the cast deliver solid performances with Logan Miller generating the most sympathy as the guilt ridden Ben. Similarly any film with Tyler Labine in it automatically becomes more interesting as he always delivers a solid performance.
At a tight 100 minutes, there is no bloating with Escape Room. Characters are introduced quickly and before we know it they’re fighting for their lives. The puzzles are interesting and there are some fantastic visuals throughout. One room in particular stands out when the group wind up in a bar with the furniture stuck to the ceiling. As the camera spins so the furniture is facing the right way up, our characters look like they’re defying gravity and these little tricks help build the tension so that each room feels fresh and challenging.
In true Hollywood studio style there is set up for a sequel which – depending on box office numbers – seems inevitable. The set-up does work but it feels like something we’ve seen a thousand times before and done better. A second Escape Room might be entertaining but there is only so far you can go with this concept before we end up with fatigue as audiences did with Saw, Cube, Hostel and so on. Nevertheless, Escape Room is a fun and silly thriller with some good performances, great visuals and tense set pieces.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★