( l to R) Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, Jay Ellis, Logan Miller and Nick Dodan star in ESCAPE ROOM.

Film Review – ‘Escape Room’ (2019)

An escape room is the new trend that co-workers and friends embark on nowadays. It involves working together and if all is successful through terrific teamwork and communication, you’ve proven that great minds think alike and six minds work better than one. Or does it? Maybe working on your own is the best way, after all you are the master of your own destiny and architect of your own life. Why should others interfere with the cards that you play? To make a horror film called ‘Escape Room’ where, six strangers find themselves in a maze of deadly mystery rooms, and must use their wits to survive sound intriguing.

A new horror franchise could be born. Nonetheless, will we want a new franchise with this premise? Every actor will be different in the sequels, all virtual unknowns and it will be the game contraptions that will be your main characters instead of the actors that die gruesomely around them. Most people will compare ‘Escape Room’ to the ‘Saw’ franchise as Jigsaw’s torture devices are so diversified, bloody and brutal just like the escape rooms in this film. One problem! The world is practically sick of the ‘Saw’ films, so how will ‘Escape Room’ match that success? ‘Escape Room’ needs to quit while it’s ahead.

The fact that the six strangers thought that they were competing for $10,000 only to find out later that they are playing for their lives creates great tension. Out of the six, who will die? Who will live? Or more rather who will break out alive? What twists will we encounter that may blow us away? That’s the unfortunate aspect. The audience will not care for the twist or these characters as it’s more the violent contraptions in the escape room that you will care for more. The structure of the film is a little cliché, but harmless, introducing us one by one to the ensemble cast as they are invited to the game via a little black box bearing the old Cannon films logo. We meet a timid but intellectual whiz kid maths student Zoey (Taylor Russell), contemptuous yuppie Ben (Logan Miller), dedicated escape roomer Danny (Nik Dodani), scarred Iraq War vet Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), blue-collar trucker Mike (Tyler Labine) and smarmy financial whizz Jason (Jay Ellis).

All characters are rightfully contrasting and to see them support each other, fight each other or betray each other keeps us almost engrossed. Things pick up when the games begin: firstly, when the luxurious waiting room actually converts into the first challenge, threatening to burn the players alive; the next throws them into a picturesque winter wonderland where the ice starts to melt and crack. Who will be the first to tread on thin ice? All! But who will be the first to die? And the third escape room is the best of all: a huge bar with a pool table and gigantic juke box, playing a slowed-down version of Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown’ on repeat) that is revealed to be upside down, the floor/ceiling falling away to reveal a deadly drop. Who will drop? It’s all fun and frolics which is why we are captivated in the moment only.

Sadly, we do not need another horror franchise like this as it will get repetitive, boring and bland. So many of these films could be spawned, but they will later become a straight to DVD franchise and this film should be contented with its cinematic release. ‘Happy Death Day 2U’ will be a welcome sequel and beginning of a worthy horror franchise, due to originality and horror/comedic timing. ‘Escape Room’ won’t as we’ve seen this all before.

Think a tamer version of ‘Saw’ films meets ‘The Crystal Maze.’ Just play a real escape room rather than watch it would be the best advice. There is no ingenuity here.

Aly Lalji | [rating=2]

Horror, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 15 | 1st February 2019 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Adam Robitel | Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll,Tyler Labine, Yorick van Wageningen.