DIRECTOR: Peter Dukes
WRITER: Peter Dukes
Brice owns an escape room in Los Angeles. His business is currently struggling, and he is trying to find new ways to make his escape rooms more interactive and fun. He decides to take an ancient box from an antique shop that contains a demon within it. When a group of friends head to his escape room for a night out, they get more than they bargained for when a possessed killer ruins their night. They have less than an hour to solve the puzzles, or they'll die.
Over the last several years, escape rooms have grown in popularity. It appears that the trend of solving puzzles while in a locked room with only an hour to escape is all the rage these days. Enjoyed with your closest friends, random strangers, and even colleagues at work functions, they are the new in thing to do. It now also seems that horror filmmakers have caught on and taken the concept and ran with it, with no less than six movies and short films coming out over the last three years.
As someone who is yet to experience an escape room. I don't know what the rush or feeling is like of being locked in a room and forced to solve puzzles. As a person who is both competitive and has obsessive-compulsive disorder, they would probably drive me utterly insane. I'm the sort of person who likes to be in control at all times. So I'm not a person that likes to relinquish that power or put it in someone else's hands. If I were to get locked in one of these places, I'd probably get bitterly jealous if someone solved the puzzle before I did.
Escape Room is a movie that almost gets itself across the line for me. It has moments that I really enjoyed here. The story mixes some interesting mythology with demonic possession which uses an escape room as the setting. For the most part, it works. Is it a device that we've seen variations of before? Yes. It's just the director and writer has chosen a clever setting to have our four victims be thrown into, and for my first escape room horror experience, I didn't hate it. It's not without its problems, though.
Since Scream was released in 1996, we've had a massive increase in horror cinema being quite meta and self-referential. Escape Room feels no different here. At times this works wonders. At other times, it borders on the extreme. Sean Young plays an antique shop owner who specialises in oddities. She takes a phone call at one point and states 'do not feed it after midnight'. This was a nice little nod to Gremlins. Our Annabelle doll even gets a mention. I enjoyed these moments. What I didn't enjoy was our two lead male characters name-dropping every horror movie ever made.
In bringing up our two main characters and their girlfriends. They are actually the part of the film that I just didn't care for, or cared if they died. The two main guys have been written to be these relatable horror fans. Yet, I just found them and the girlfriends annoying. The character that I feel that I connected with the most was Skeet Ulrich as a struggling business owner who just wants to run the best escape room in Los Angeles. He is the character that feels the most sympathetic. I believe it's his presence on screen that elevates the story.
Now, our killer who is possessed by a demon is actually pretty creepy. A handyman meets Baghead Jason is what I would say he reminds me of. Here the killer wields a pair of scissors like some crazed homemaker. While the gore isn't too extreme here, we do get a sweet death where a pair of scissors meets the top of a woman's skull, not once but twice. I think the writer has tried to set out and subvert expectations with several of the character deaths and they may actually shock some of the more unsuspecting viewers.
When it comes to the scares and tension, I think that Escape Room sadly misses the mark. I think what the director has gone for here isn't jump scares, but instead, he's tried to create a slow building tension. There aren't a lot of scenes where characters are suddenly scared by loud noises or animals jumping out in front of them. We are aware from about twenty minutes in that our possessed killer inches closer to these victims by way of a timer and a chain. It's this which keeps the characters on edge.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about some glaring issues with the plot. The film opens with two characters in the desert who decide to bury the box. When things turn sour due to the box having a hold over them, it ends in murder and suicide. We never find out how it makes its way to the US. We don't know how it came into possession of each person. All we get is some credits with the box photoshopped into different decades. We don't even get any backstory on the demon. We just know that skull-box is what houses it. I'd have liked a little more from the story.
DEATH TOLL: 5
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A man is shot in the back.
- A man shoots himself in the head.
- A man is stabbed in the back and chest with scissors.
- A woman is stabbed in the head twice with scissors.
- A woman is stabbed in the chest with a shard of glass.
- A man is stabbed in the arm with a shard of glass.
- A man is shot in the chest and face by police.
Escape Room is the first of several released and planned movies that turn the escape room into a place of pain, hurt, and suffering. While this movie has many problems, I still found elements of the story that I enjoyed. I think the film mixes this latest craze with the supernatural well enough. We have a creepy looking killer, some clever meta gags, and decent performances from Skeet Ulrich and Sean Young. Where the movie loses points is a few glaring plot holes, lack of scares, and unlikable characters in our four victims.