Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine
Director: Adam Robitel
Early January horror releases are also something that make me incredibly worried. They tend to be poorly acted, have every cliché imaginable, and are generally some of the least inspired movies of the year. When I saw the first promotional materials for Escape Room, I went in with cautious optimism, as the idea behind it looked somewhat interesting, yet I despised Robitel’s last film Insidious: The Last Key, so I was at least hoping for something better than that. Fortunately, while still a flawed movie, Escape Room is certainly an upgrade from Robitel’s last attempt. Exciting at some times and dragging at others, for a first weekend in January release, this could have been significantly worse.
The film follows six strangers that have all been brought to an escape room where the first person to get out will be rewarded with $10,000. While this seems pretty straightforward at first, the contestants realize they are in for more than they bargained for as every room as a personal twist on it that make these rooms realer and deadlier than anything these people have seen before. The thing that makes Escape Room more interesting than many other dramas and horror movies is the fact that the environment and story surrounding these characters is absolutely riveting at times. The first three rooms are all creatively and immersively designed so that we feel like we are right there with these characters as they fight for their lives. While this is going on, we get little snippets of insight into all of the background stories of these characters and why they were selected to participate in this game. The thing about these scenes is that while they make the first two acts very interesting to watch, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room in the third act to do anything other than end. The film is only 100 minutes long, and about 75 minutes are spent in the first three escape rooms. That means in about 25 minutes the characters have to explore the remaining rooms and the film has to come to a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t help but feel that the film got really rushed towards the end as the majority of the film up to this point had been about developing the game and the surrounding world while the ending just wants to get us out of the theater. This is paired with a very bizarre reason for how this game was established in the first place, which left me with more questions than answers. Maybe the point of the film isn’t necessarily to explain how all of these things work and more so just to entertain the masses, but this film offers no true sense of closure or satisfaction in the end. This is a shame, because honestly up until this point the film is pretty interesting, and I couldn’t believe that I actually wanted to learn more based my preconceived notions going into the movie. The fact that this movie had moments that kept me asking for more is a testament to what an average January horror movie could be.
Overall, Escape Room could have been absolutely terrible, so the fact that we got something that was at least watchable is a major accomplishment. Of the cast members, I have never seen Jay Ellis in anything significant before, so seeing him in a larger role shows us that this guy is ready to take the next steps and end up in some significant movies in the next few years. While certainly far from perfect, Escape Room made the best of a bad situation and ended up making a solid thriller that can be enjoyed on a Friday night with friends, which is really all we can ask for from this film.
Overall Score: 5/10