Cinephiles know that the major studios use January as a dumping ground. Sadly, many of these leftovers include bad horror movies. Anyone remember The Unborn? How about the insipid One Missed Call? Or the dreadful Texas Chainsaw 3D? Escape Room had a great trailer, but the January release date instantly lowered expectations. While reviews haven’t been glowing, critics have surpringly had some good things to say. Can Escape Room break horror’s January jinx?
Six complete strangers arrive in a highrise waiting room. All from disparate backgrounds, each of them received a personalized invitation to participate in a new ‘escape room’ for a $10, 000 prize. However, they soon find themselves fighting for their lives when the rooms’ puzzles and traps prove to be all too real.
Escape Room Runs With Its Premise
Over the last few years, ‘escape rooms’ have become all the rage in recreational entertainment. To date, horror movies like Hell House LLC and The Houses October Built have already exploited public interest in haunted attractions. Arguably, it was only a matter of time before ‘escape rooms’ got the same treatment. But for the record, Canadian sci-fi/horror 90’s flick, Cube, was the first true ‘escape room’.
In spite of some huge gaps in logic and plausibility, Robitel never allows the movie to slow down too much.
Debates about what came first aside, director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key) absolutely hits the premise out of the park. Each ‘room’ is a wildly fun and inventive setpiece that recalls the best of the Saw franchise. There’s a manic energy to everything that is in part characterized by its focused pacing. In spite of some huge gaps in logic and plausibility, Robitel never allows the movie to slow down too much. High production values mean the suspense is sharply editing and expertly choreographed. You’ll have neither the time nor the interest in questioning some of the more ludicrous twists in the final act.
Making a Case for PG-13 Horror
Some horror fans may be jaded with Escape Room’s PG-13 rating. Though its elaborate traps will draw inevitable comparisons to Saw, Escape Room does it without the blood and bone-snapping effects. To be honest, this is the kind of movie that doesn’t need explicit violence. Nothing feels like it’s missing from the movie. Instead, Robitel creates and maintains a genuine sense of tension. Like last fall’s Hell Fest, Escape Room replicates the exhilaration of a real ‘escape room’, never needing to lean on gore or graphic violence.
Strong Cast Brings Fun Energy to Proceedings
If you’re planning on doing an actual ‘escape room’, it’s usually best to bring people with unique talents. Escape Room’s producers took this notion to heart when casting their movie. In between the crazy setpieces, Escape Room’s strong cast carries the quieter moments. Taylor Russell (Zoey) and Logan Miller (Ben) are genuinely likeable leads who give the movie an emotional anchor. In particular, Russell shows impressive range with a predictable character arc.
Not surprisingly, Woll is an absolute badass in the movie.
If there’s a takeaway message it’s that Deborah Ann Woll should be headline more projects. From True Blood to Daredevil, Woll is consistently fantastic with everything she’s given. Not surprisingly, Woll is an absolute badass in the movie. Equal parts vulnerable and tough, Woll is a highlight. Rounding out the cast, Tyler Sabine adds some levity in between the suspense.
Escape Room Is Unabashedly Fun
Escape Room isn’t going to win any prizes for plausibility. Don’t go into the movie expecting any meaningful subtext either. However, you will be thoroughly entertained by this pure piece of horror confectionery. For once, Hollywood hasn’t just dumped a ‘dead on arrival’ horror movie on fans. Clearly, Sony Entertainment hopes they have a budding franchise on their hands. In this case, I wouldn’t argue with another trip to the Escape Room.