Escape Room Review: Trapped in mediocrity
The film is a mix of Saw, Final Destination, The Condemned and Lost (the TV series), but doesn't reach the dizzying heights of any of those.
Imagine you have received a mysterious clue, and when you solve it, you receive a key to a bigger puzzle, that when solved nets you a huge cash prize. Now put together six different people and make this a competition with a sole winner. Chances are you have a good reality show on hand. But let's spice it up a bit. Let us make it so that with fun comes fear - fear of certain death. What you have now is a horror-thriller, and that is precisely what Escape Room is.
Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll,
Escape Room is a mix of Saw, Final Destination, The Condemned and Lost (the TV series), but doesn't reach the dizzying heights of any of those. It has some incredibly well-designed puzzle rooms - a room that turns into an oven will bake you alive, a freeze-to-death room, a gothic, dimly-lit hospital room, a trippily-designed room, and the best of the lot, an upside-down bar room. This last set-up is really disorienting and the eeriness provided by Petula Clark's Downtown matches the atmosphere perfectly for the stakes at hand. It makes you believe that anything can and will happen. And it also kind of makes you think, this is what a PG-13 Saw would have been like.
You know the saying, 'What makes a house, a home are its inhabitants'? It is the characters of Escape Room who fail to make a film out of this interesting premise and design. The characters here are a selfish stock-broker, an angsty millennial, an introverted genius, an average joe, a war veteran and an excitable nerd. Nik Dodani plays this last character with a certain feverishness and excitability that none of the others bring to the table. None of the other characters are memorable, and this is especially sad given the cast includes a powerhouse performer like Deborah Ann Wall (her brilliant turn as Karen Page in Marvel's Netflix series Daredevil is proof of her ability). The puzzles themselves are more Holmes-ian in nature than Poirot-esque, in that the characters inside the film solve them and we have no involvement at all. So there is a clear sense of detachment from the proceedings for the watching audience.
The change of genres towards the end makes way for the potential to build a franchise out of this a la Saw and Final Destination. And sure enough, there is a tease for a sequel in the climax. This climax, though, is a let-down. For Escape Room to match the longevity of the aforementioned franchises, to paraphrase Apocalypse Now, the next film should end with a bang and not with a whimper.