Pay attention, follow the clues and maybe you’ll escape the room you’re in. Escape Room experiences offer a lot of fun especially with a larger group and while I’ve never participated in one, the idea is intriguing. With Escape Room, a group of six strangers are brought together to compete in a prize winning contest to see who can “escape the room.” The only thing that wasn’t mentioned was the traps, the scenarios and the dangers are all real – this is not a simulation. With January releases being primarily lackluster, I had my doubts on Escape Room, but this movie has a lot of surprises and I was quite entertained.
The setting is in Chicago and six people are given a gift to compete for a cash prize of $10,000 if they can escape the most immersive escape room ever designed. The idea is intriguing and if you’re thinking that this is a combination of Cube and Saw, then you’re correct, except of course this movie is rated PG-13. I was nervous given the rating, but it was refreshing not seeing buckets of gore in my face and having thrilling moments instead.
Here are the players: Zoey (Taylor Russell), a shy student who’s very smart, Ben (Logan Miller), a down-on-his-luck young man working at a grocery store who isn’t the brightest, Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), a woman with a troubled past, Mike (Tyler Labine), who is experiencing an escape room for the first time, a stockbroker named Jason (Jay Ellis) and longtime escape room champion Danny (Nik Dodani), who provides clues and instructions to the first-time players plus here’s excited to play this new game.
With movies like Cube and Saw (not to mention their sequels) a good majority of characters are written in only to be killed off quickly, here Escape Room takes the time to identify each player and give them a sense of depth and identity. Each actor (or player in the game) portray their characters quite well. They work together, struggle when things get tense, and are convincing in their performances. I was able to remember each one long after leaving the theater, a rarity in films of this genre.
While I won’t spoil the plot, the story is straight-forward. Players enter the game but discover that things are all too real and that danger lurks around every corner and there are deadly consequences. The puzzles are unique and interesting and I found myself looking for clues and even muttering suggestions to solve them so that they could move forward. The script by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik keeps the audience engaged and is smart enough to not go easy and go for cheap scares or gory moments. The director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key) has some really cool camera angles and offers us plenty of suspenseful moments. Note: this isn’t a horror film, it’s a thriller, so don’t expect overtly scary moments.
Verdict 4 out of 5
Going in to see Escape Room, I was nervous with the PG-13 rating and thought it would be a disappointment, but I’m glad I was so wrong. I was literally on the edge of my seat at certain points, from the oven room to the reverse pool table room, Escape Room kept me engaged from start to finish. The ending is a bit contrived, but overall no complaints for an otherwise surprising January release. It’s a mixture of the Cube, Saw, and The Cabin in the Woods without the gory violence, which is nice to see. I say see it once for a surprising movie, and see it a second time to spot the clues then grab your friends and head to your nearest escape room experience. This is one heck of a thrilling and unexpected intense ride!