The films Saw and Cube definitely made an impact on filmmaker, hence Adam Robitel, known for his impressive and box office smash hit Insidious: The Last Key (2018 and prior to that The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) brought forth Escape Room, made for a nice way to start 2019, using a screenplay from writers Maria Melnik and Bragi F. Schurt. However, a real life tragedy sparks the delay of this movie release, that involved the deaths of five Polish teenagers killed in a fire while trying to escape from an actual Escape Room in Poland. This made the entire industry take firm notice of the incident, this newer form of entertainment now has a strict guideline list of conditions and rules to always follow. Robitel’s film a PG-13 released from Columbia Pictures on a budget of $9 million earning worldwide a tad over $55 million, has no connection to director Peter Dukes’ Escape Room (2017) or director Will Wernick’s Escape Room (2017) which both have similar plots to this film. If you’re unsure what an escape room is, very simple, you and either 4 friends or strangers must work together to solve a series of puzzles and obtain safety, often they have a theme from prohibition to a mummy’s tomb to a zombie outbreak, with a countdown clock.
A simple enough premise, a group of strangers, which the audience slowly finds themselves introduced to the cast an anxious plane crash survivor Zoey (Taylor Russell), war veteran Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), struggling alcoholic Ben (Logan Miller (Tilt ), obsessed gamer Danny (Nik Dodani), cutthroat businessman Jason (Jay Ellis), and former miner Mike (Tyler Labine (Cottage County ). They all were sent a puzzle box, solving it gets them an invite to play for $10,000 at an Escape Room facility. First, all horror fans know never play with boxes, from Hellraiser to Twilight Zone no good comes from them. Through a series of interconnected rooms, and the suspension disbelief due to beautifully design, lack of improbability to actually physically exist, makes for some fantastical moments for the cast to venture to the maze of clues, and some sacrifices for the greater of others, making some narrow-minded, selfish murderous intentions. The rooms go from an inferno oven to frozen tundra, to upside down billiards room and so on, each time the difficulty grows wilder. Of course, a series of events do occur throughout the film, and puzzles at least vastly more creative than just torturous designs in the Saw franchise, however instead of Jigsaw the villain herein is named Dr. Wootan Yu (the name is a puzzle too).
The overall swift pace keeps the viewer engaged, and makes sure not to give them time to linger on the improbability of survival and comprehension of the crazy room layouts. This film does take cues from at least four other movies, as previously mentioned Saw, for obvious reasons, then Cube (a lesser known flick in some circles); a touch of Final Destination and a moral decay of the individuals controlling the game as well as one of the contestants which is found in Hostel. All of the characters, at least have depth and more than the customary one-dimensional often found in horror films, then again, this movie isn’t truly in that genre, it falls into a mixture of psychological thriller meets dramatic mystery. One incredible element is the set design and decoration achieving stellar marks as the set pieces work to link the clues together nicely.
The only downside aside from the elaborate design of the sets (serving as a plus/minus), is that it is a rated PG-13, it lacks the carnage and gore factors for a majority the horror audience, although tension ratchets the thrill ride there’s a few times the movie just goes too far in their sinister plan, some minor editing required perhaps 9-minutes worth. Although an enjoyable fantasy thriller for popcorn munching, including the conspiracy wrap up at the end, a bed of roses over a heaping pile of shadowy smoldering enterprise. Oh, by the way it clearly leaves the door open for a sequel.
Solve the Puzzle. Escape the Room. Find the clues or die.
IMDb Rating: 6.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10