Escape Room, 2019.
Directed by Adam Robitel.
Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, and Kenneth Fok.
Six strangers find themselves trapped in a building where they must solve puzzles in able to move onto the next room before the inevitable traps kick in.
So in Escape Room we have six people of varying backgrounds who have all been handed a mysterious puzzle box that entitles them to play in the titular rooms of escape. Once inside there are clues to figure out and puzzles to solve in order to move onto the next room and, presumably, freedom but can they work together to get themselves out of this bind or will their individual personalities inhibit their ability to play as a team and set off the many traps that lay ahead?
Well, already we can see there are some obvious nods to other horror movies going on – a mysterious puzzle box, you say? Seen that before. A room full of traps where somebody (usually) ends up sacrificing themselves or killing somebody else? Pretty sure that has been covered too. So what does Escape Room bring to the party that we haven’t seen before? Erm…
To be honest, Escape Room is really Saw-lite; actually, it is more like Jigsaw-lite in that the grittiness of the early Saw movies isn’t there but the core ideas and themes are, only wrapped up in a slick, made-for-a-younger-teenage-audience package, i.e. less gore and more horrible back stories for six highly unlikeable victims. The characters tick the boxes for what is required, with only one having any development whatsoever but it is so forced and leads into the most ludicrously obvious franchise-setup of an ending that any good that it might have done gets buried under the forehead-slapping silliness of the epilogue.
For the first hour of the movie Escape Room does have potential for being a fun, if unoriginal, ride that should have at least tapped into a sinister Willy Wonka vibe given the bizarre nature of the rooms that the contestants find themselves in. Despite knowing who is going to live and who is going to die based on the stereotypes that are presented, the intrigue begins with a creepy mystery receptionist and a task that involves keeping pressure on a table full of pressure pads to stop the room turning into a giant oven. The next room is a mock-up of a snowy mountain – complete with sub-zero temperatures and a realistic landscape image projected onto the wall – and the scope was there to make this something special but the cracks begin to show as the opportunity is wasted on games and tasks that don’t really require much in the way of intelligent interactions – in fact, a lot of them seem to be things happening randomly, which is not only nonsensical to the plot but also means that the viewing audience can’t really relate to it in a ‘what would I do?’ kind of way.
But the film moves on into what is supposed to be the centrepiece of the whole thing and that is an 8-ball pool hall, complete with bar and jukebox all placed upside just to really disorientate the players. In terms of production and set design it is quite impressive but much like the previous room it just sort of collapses in on itself, both literally and metaphorically, as the traps give way to the surviving players’ character traits and the film starts to veer away from the action towards finding out why these particular people were chosen, and that is when Escape Room loses whatever fun or intriguing aspect it had as several endings are played out one after another as if the writers didn’t want to finish on one particular note so they just threw everything in there and hoped something worked. Ironically, none of them really do.
Looking crisp and clean on Blu-ray, extras come in the form of the usual fluff pieces about how great it was to make the film and, to be fair, everyone does at least look like they’re enjoying the experience. However, as a viewer Escape Room provides just about enough entertainment for the first two-thirds of its running time to just about get away with being a reasonably enjoyable Saturday night rental. It looks very polished and has some well-staged moments but its generic plot, lack of focus and seeming inability to end when it should hampers the final act to the point of unintentional hilarity, if you’re still paying attention by that point.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★