I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked into the 11:00AM showing of Escape Room at my local AMC theater. Well, that’s not entirely true. I saw the trailer attached to another movie that I had seen and got the general gist what it would be about. With ticket in hand, I walked up to the ticket person and he started his spiel – “Escape Room is just like Saw, except PG-13.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but that was basically what he said and it didn’t really fill me with any confidence.
I’m a big fan of horror movies, both good and bad, and I come to expect a certain level of trash that gets pawned off as horror. Eighty percent of the time I’m right. The only enjoyment I get from those films is from how bad they actually are. Remember, it’s okay to laugh and enjoy bad movies! About fifteen percent of them I find entertaining. These films are generally good and can find an audience outside your typical horror audience. They have their issues but the ride, as a whole, is great. The last five percent is what I call my cult classics. I finish the movie surprised at how excellent the film is and continue thinking about it the next day. These films are my white whales. It’s these films that I strive to find!
Where does Escape Room (2018) fit in then? Well, I would throw it in the fifteen percent category. I found myself enjoying the film more than I thought I would. The film has also found an audience with an opening week of $18 million on a budget of only $9 million. As usual with horror films that make any amount of profit, expect a sequel to come in a year or two. OK, let’s talk about the movie now.
Now let’s dissect the film a little bit. We’ll talk about what I thought worked and what didn’t work.
PLOT SUMMARY- Six strangers are invited to an escape room to try their luck at winning $10,000.
One of the big downfalls is the filmmakers decision on the story structure of the film. For whatever reason, Escape Room opens up with one of the six strangers seemingly dying due to a trap. What this tells us is he will survive to the final room. So any tension built around his character in the previous escape rooms is now gone. We know he’s going to survive, so what’s the point? We can also assume that all, or almost all, of the other six are gone or dead. I’m not sure why I’ve been seeing this final act tease so much lately. The exact same problem is in Netflix’s Bird Box too.
By far the best thing going for Escape Room is the set design. Every room has a unique look that not only looks great, but also contains great puzzles. From the sterile office room, the frozen shack room, and my personal favorite, the billiard bar room, every room was varied and well designed. While the puzzles were interesting, the deaths of our characters were not. I suspect it had something to do with the PG-13 rating. One character drowns and another one falls into a pit off-screen. One gets killed by a defibrillator and another gets poisoned. I guess I was expecting some more unique kills. The crazy striped poison room was freaky and disorientating. And dare I say, the camera work was a little avant-garde.
The ending is pretty laughable. Just the idea of typing it out makes me feel cringey. The reason why those six people were invited to the Escape Room? Also laughable.
Escape Room is not a great film but if you are willing to let the plot slide and just sit there and take in the great sets, it’s not the worse 90 minutes you will spend.
Rating: Golden Coral – Not the greatest, but it’ll do in a pinch.