Escape the Field, 2022.
Directed by Emerson Moore.
Starring Jordan Claire Robbins, Theo Rossi, Tahirah Sharif, Shane West, Elena Juatco, Julian Feder, Dillon Jagersky, and Nicole Kawalez.
Six strangers wake up trapped in an endless cornfield only to discover something mysterious is hunting them.
Someone desperately wanted to make Saw inside a cornfield maze and failed miserably. That someone is writer and director Emerson Moore (with Sean Wathen and Joshua Dobkin assisting on the screenplay), who has a solid concept with Escape the Field, trading off isolating traps for a degree of freedom outdoors where the characters must maneuver around and frequently backtrack to noteworthy landmarks, discovering new uses for random objects. Each member of this kidnapped group has been left with one, implying that teamwork will be necessary. I’m sure you can already guess things don’t go civilly.
It’s precisely like a survival horror videogame, with compasses having odd purposes such as revealing the location of a faucet rather than a way out of the maze. The group also stumbles across more maps than a Resident Evil game, drawing such inspiration from those games; at one point, you sit there wondering if a hidden elevator will take these characters down into an underground laboratory. Hell, there’s even a super serum one character accidentally gets dosed up with. One of the screenwriters also has an obsession with Lost, with characters constantly and emphatically stating “we have to go back” so often that it feels like a parody.
Despite all of that, Escape the Field is a tedious exercise that never finds the terror in its environment (even with the characters forced to fend off an unseen danger at night that can cheaply snatch someone up at any moment), is filled with blindingly stupid characters that make foolish cliché choices while unable to follow even the most basic logic of the events and story unfolding, and puzzles so uninspired and lame you might hope the characters can’t even solve them because it might provide some slight amusement. Naturally, some of these bland puzzles are used twice in a movie that needs to stretch its ending credits out into eight minutes (while assuming anyone will give a damn about its mid-credits scene teasing more of these games despite providing no payoff whatsoever here), when the film is already only 88 minutes.
Sam (Jordan Claire Robbins) is the first to wake up inside the cornfield. She finds herself alone and still wearing her nursing uniform from the night before, with no recollection or clue of how someone could sneak into a hospital, sedate her, and carry her out in front of everyone. Escape the Field doesn’t care about any of this, either. Anyway, each character wakes up in an empty circular area alone and with one object (anything from a gun to matches to a knife and more) supposed to be used for something other than its apparent intent.
She also comes across five other strangers (played by Theo Rossi, Shane West, Tahirah Sharif, Elena Juatco, and Julian Feder), all thinly sketched, ranging from stubbornly confrontational to unbelievably morally superior. Every character gets stabbed somehow but carries on like nothing happened because there’s a nurse in the group. Even the characters with a moral compass quickly become annoying, arguably more so than the irrational hotheads. Everyone also has some tragic trope backstory, but the script is so dull with wooden dialogue that nothing about them sticks.
Admittedly, there is a minor curiosity while watching Escape the Field, but only if its mashup of influences sounds appealing to one. Every twist here can be seen from miles away, so if there is a shock, it’s that these filmmakers fumble what could have been a fun concept so badly.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com