Baron Craze: You previously made Escape Room and now No Escape – why did you choose to another story in this same vein?
Will Wernick: When we made Escape Room I had been working with a couple producers and the idea of an escape room came up and at that point I had made a real feature and that movie happened very quickly and timely idea and it performed quite well both internationally and in the U.S. Lionsgate put it out here and around a half million people saw it in the theater here and around the world. We were talking about doing a follow up to it a bigger Escape Room movie but when Sony made Escape Room and it seemed like the ground had already been tread so we went through a couple versions of scripts and then we came up with an idea with using a social media thriller with an escape room in it and I think it makes it fresh because I think Escape Room is sort of a mirror for the characters social media personality like how we are all creating our own world just like bloggers do in creating their own personas so it seems like an interesting arena to take an escape room.
BC: Your film seems to combine elements from some other movies such as Hostel, Saw, and April Fool’s Day (1986)?
WW: I’ve never heard April Fool’s Day – that’s interesting The Game was a bigger influence which has always been one of my favorite movies – was very intentional having it similar to Saw & Hostel. The lead character in this movie is Cole who is a horror movie fan and intellectual entertainment fan and the traps are meant to mirror those movies for him and the audience. Now I have some fun in watching that movie.
BC: What was the most difficult scene to do, and was it something that had to change from the script?
WW: Making movies, you sort of have to lay out the track for the train and things have to change instantly a couple of major things changed with the puzzles there was originally two more cells and puzzles and it because obvious that it was going to be too complicated and so that was re-written beforehand. And there was originally quite a bit more backstory on the main character we shot of the young kids growing up and footage showing the character sort of becoming a celebrity but in filming and editing I’m glad we filmed it but it works better as a montage – the montage wouldn’t have worked as well if we hadn’t filled all of it we were able to take bits and pieces of what we filmed and it felt authentic.
BC: So, you believe more in telling the story in the shortest most straightforward path possible without getting a lot of the dialog bogging down the film?
WW: Well, it depends on the film, I like long dramas too and I like to make some of them but for a movie like this you need to get in and get going relatively quick and I think that showing as opposed to telling works a lot better.
BC: How does your movie standout from other Escape Themed films?
WW: The biggest thing about this movie is that the escape room is one aspect of the movie it’s a set within the story – this movie could have been made without the escape room in it but I think that the escape room happens to be the best with what the character is doing or trying to do.
BC: It appears you deploy a form of psychological terror was that an underlying message you had in the film about scaring someone to sheer madness or revenge?
WW: Absolutely I think that speaking of the social media stuff we wanted him to ask for something big and get more than he imagined he would get so I think that as we all progress with social media one wants more and more attention and a heighted experience and for this character, he gets this heighted experience and it terrorizes them.
BC: I would agree – people always seem to want more than they have they need to do something more each time they are shocked and amazed for others, so they keep pushing the limit to the brink of madness.
WW: Yes I think it’s true in the film too like if you look at the Saw franchise with the first film is so great and when you really dissect that movie you don’t see a whole lot of physical horror it’s a terror movie and I think that terror is more interesting than blood & guts so a lot of this movie is terrorful because it’s not shown on screen and when you watch it, it sort of feels like you’re seeing it
BC: I’ve seen plenty of horror films that show all the blood and guts but when you have scenes that’s just blackness on the screen you just hear the sounds your mind is left with pure interpretation of what is actually occurring
BC: Why the name changes in the title first called #FollowMe then No Escape?
WW: The film is actually called Follow Me – no hashtag and it’s making its way in theaters all of the world as Follow Me and Vertical changed the title to No Escape because I think they thought it was better for the U.S. market so that’s why they did that I’m not entirely sure but they felt stronger. It is #FollowMe in Slovakia but it’s supposed to be Follow Me.
BC: The poster that I originally saw uses social media hashtag, then there was Follow Me, then Escape Room and I’m just trying to figure out what was going on…
WW: *laughs* I had no idea until recently that films often get their titles changed all over the place – our first film Escape Room had 12 different titles.
BC: What are some of your influences from a director or film?
WW: I think how I always think about film I always think about David Fincher I think there’s no greater living technical director but I like a log of different things – I’ve always been a big fan of Stephen Spielberg movies and even Michael Bay but I say that David Fincher is probably the best and single greatest influence.
BC: Just to follow up – what is your opinion of the horror film genre?
WW: I think horror is fascinating and its history in Hollywood it always seems to have driven trends it’s the one genre aside from mega films like Marvel and disaster movies which will always be in theaters but the experience of the horror movie is just radically different so I think it’s just interesting and a truly great horror movie are ones like Alien or Seven that sort of transcend their genre and there is a lot of interest stuff coming out right now.
BC: Social Media you like to give out?
WW: Just my name on all of them @WillWernick – No Escape movie – Instagram – I don’t have a huge presence on social media.
BC: Curious to know what are some of the trends you see emerging in thrillers or horror films after pandemic is over?
WW: I’m sure you will see a lot of contained horror movies – the pandemic obviously – I think one of the more interesting things is people using masks and having characters wearing masks- in everyday life in movies – also some television shows that come and go because we’re in this really bizarre time when things change so quickly – I know of a lot of projects going on right now both large or independent set in the pandemic.
BC: Thanks, Will for your time to do this interview for The Horror Times.