In recent years, horror and thriller fans have seen a wave of unusual and original films, confronting vital political themes (Get Out, 2017) and kicking back against tired generic tropes (Hereditary, 2018). Adam Robitel’s Escape Room is a much more predictable offering. The film, unsurprisingly, follows six strangers as they attempt to solve their way out of a deadly game.
The protagonist is maths student and loner Zoey, who receives an invitation to play an escape room for the chance to win $10,000. Tempted by the puzzle, she arrives to meet a motley crew of people drawn both by the concept and by the game’s financial reward. Quickly the group realise their escape will have to be a very real one.
Unlike other films with this premise (see Will Wernick’s uninspired Escape
Room, 2017), Robitel’s film features beautifully designed rooms, such as
an imitation frozen lake and an upside-down dive bar with a disappearing floor. The puzzles and set design inject vital tension into the story, and the choice to shy away from Saw-style body horror is not a weakness.
Inevitable conflicts emerge between the film’s fairly stock characters, but there are just enough jokes in the script to keep us entertained. Paired with the original designs, the humour makes Escape Room an engaging watch for at least for the first part of the film.
As the players begin to discuss the events that brought them together, the
story starts to overreach itself, and the narrative’s coherence is lost. The
ending is the final blow to an otherwise tolerable plot, featuring ridiculously ramped-up drama at the expense of tying up loose ends.
Escape Room manages to deliver even less than it offers, and with an already low bar, the exciting design and good performances cannot
salvage this messy horror.
CAST: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis
DIRECTOR: Adam Robitel
WRITERS: Bragi Schut, Maria Melnik
SYNOPSIS: Six strangers answer an invitation to play a new escape room for a potential $10,000 prize. Once inside, they discover that the rooms are unusually immersive, and they realise they are playing for their lives.