Sunday 16 June 2019

Escape Room ★★★☆☆

I’m awful at escape rooms. As my girlfriend will happily confirm for you when I get confused by a puzzle I rage. I would’ve loved to have been staff at the Telford escape room I last played, watching my anger unfold on the CCTV…But despite this, I do love them. They are such a unique and fun way to spend an hour and a great opportunity for team building. But I would’ve been absolutely f***ed in Escape Room, directed by Adam Robitel.

The film follows six adventurous strangers who are invited to travel to a mysterious building to experience an innovative new escape room - where players compete to solve a series of puzzles to win $10,000. What starts out as seemingly innocent fun soon turns into a living nightmare as the four men and two women discover each room is an elaborate trap that's part of a sadistic game of life or death, structured around each player’s dark past.

The film is basically Agatha Christie does Saw, with a group of strangers invited to a mysterious and frightening venue and forced to fight for their lives. But honestly, I love shit like this. I will happily defend the Saw franchise to anyone who will listen. Sure, it’s rubbish, but there’s no denying the layered universe the films created is so full of unpredictable twists and turns that you have to respect it. Escape Room tries to replicate this and honestly, it isn’t far off. The plot packs some real surprises and innovative and exciting death scenes, but being rated PG-13 in the states does suffer somewhat for a lack of violence. I’m not sadistic, but I like a bit of gore in my horror. The deaths here, although interesting, leave a little too much to the imagination for my liking.

But a film like this succeeds or fails on the strength (or lack thereof) of the characters, and I’m happy to say that Escape Room boasts a pretty good cast with lots of interesting material to work with. Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis and Nik Dodani portray our mixed group – there’s a selfish banker, an escape room expert, a quiet victim, a young student…all the usual archetypes. But they’re made more interesting than usual here and the chemistry between all of the cast is very solid.

But unfortunately, I felt like the film missed some pretty big opportunities. The big reveal at the end of the film isn’t explored nearly enough, obviously paving the way for a sequel but leaving viewers of this first film with too many questions. There are, obviously, plot-holes (this is a modern horror after all) and some pretty poor dialogue. The lack of gore can be distracting, and there are some scenes that will have you screaming at the TV in utter disbelief of why our characters are making certain choices. But all of this amounts to the norm for the genre and doesn’t detract too badly from the final product. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s fun and thrilling. Escape Room was an entertaining little thrillfest – not without its flaws, but certainly, an entertaining way to kill 90 minutes. 

Sam Love

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