Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Nik Dodani
Screenplay: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik
99 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror/perilous action, violence, some suggestive material and language.
An Escape Room that tries to actually kill you is quite the high concept for a horror movie. How is plays out onscreen is another thing altogether.
Zoey (Taylor Russell, Before I Fall, TV’s Lost in Space) needs to put herself out there more. She is closed off, nervous, and lacks confidence. So when her professor challenges her to do something outside her comfort zone over the school break and a mysterious invite shows up to her dorm for an escape room, she takes the opportunity, but she and the other members of the escape room quickly learn that this is not a normal game, and they are in true danger. The group must work together to pass all the tests of the escape room and hopefully escape…with their lives.
Escape Room was so much more fun than I expected it to be. I felt like the film would be missing a certain amount of style just from what I’ve seen in other films with a similar concept. That being said, each room has a style and theme to it and most of them are really fun to participate in. I was not in a crowded theater but I found myself joining in with the other people in the theater to guess how to solve each puzzle. It was a great experience.
The story’s biggest faults are in the structure. The first scene of the film, set in the escape room, uses misdirection quite poorly. Then, it flashes back to earlier events and the story goes fine from there for the most part. The finale, though, gets very clunky. Getting to see more about the makers of the escape room didn’t really work, and then the film goes on too long trying to build a mythology. The last scene just flat-out didn’t work.
The characters are fun to connect to, even though many of them are archetypes of characters we would see in a horror film. They are enjoyable to watch as people get picked off but they aren’t extremely well-put together for the film. Zoey is the girl that is super-shy. Ben (Logan Miller, Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Love, Simon) is the weird awkward guy. Jason (Jay Ellis, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream., TV’s Insecure) is the rich douchebag who is just out for himself. Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll, Silver Lake, TV’s True Blood) is the pretty and tough ex-military woman. Everyone has their archetype, the most interesting being Danny (Nik Dodani, Alex Strangelove, TV’s Atypical), a guy who has been in escape rooms before and is kind of the expert, but even he is the nerd of the group.
Escape Room is a flawed but extremely enjoyable time at the movies. I’m happy to hear that a sequel is on the way because I believe this has the makings of a franchise. They need to fix the mythology or throw it out altogether and just focus on the rooms and character development. This is a popcorn thrill ride at the core and so much fun.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Adam Robitel’s Insidious: The Last Key, click here.