Written by Matt Cunningham
January is commonly referred to as the worst month for movies. While August and September are usually not memorable either, the typical January movie gets trashed by critics and audiences alike. 2019 brought audiences Adam Robitel’s (Insidious: The Last Key, The Taking of Deborah Logan) new horror flick, Escape Room to theaters. Columbia Pictures obtained the right to be the first studio in theaters this year.
The premise of the film alone is intriguing, using an increasingly popular activity as its selling point. Escape rooms are essentially puzzles that require the participants to find clues in order find a way to ‘escape’ the room they are locked inside.
Escape Room takes this concept, and turns it into a sadistic game for the players. Each room offers life-and-death scenarios, and the audience gets to see how these characters respond to every situation. From extreme heat to the threat of poisonous gas, each room offers new perils for our characters.
Some of the real-life rooms have games masters who will come inside and let the participants know what they’ve missed if the timer hits zero. This style is what the movie uses to explain the game to the audience. However, some real escape rooms allow the participants to continuously return until they have solved the puzzle.
From the beginning of the movie, Robitel shows he is excellent at directing. Robitel uses long, single-take cuts to create a feeling of mystery and suspense. This makes the film rather riveting at times, because the craftsmanship behind the camera is so uniquely handled.
For example, one of the escape rooms in the movie is an upside-down room, where the ceiling is the floor and vice-versa. The way the camera pans around this room as characters attempt to find clues is mesmerizing. Robitel fools the audience with certain objects inside of this room, keeping them guessing throughout the whole sequence and for most of the film. This is how visual storytelling should be done, and it’s proven with Robitel’s direction in Escape Room.
All of the actors do a good job in the movie. Zoey, portrayed by Taylor Russell (Lost in Space), is the most developed and likable and she ends up becoming the star of the film. Russell flexes her acting muscles as she delivers raw emotion throughout the film. Zoey is the most well-written character, because she is relatable. Russell’s acting helps Zoey’s relatability, because she reacts to each situation logically, and rarely ever makes a questionable decision.
A lot of the other characters have almost nothing respectable about them. Movies like these use cliches, because it makes it easier for the audience to handle when they bite the dust.
The escape rooms are extremely imaginative. They are all unique in their own way, and continually challenged the characters with more and more hardships. While one room tested the characters’ wits, another tested their ability to handle sharing limited resources in a harsh environment. The rooms are never used as plot devices that have to give needless exposition.
The climax of the movie had me on the edge of my seat, leading up to a surprising reveal. Robitel’s direction continued to be masterful throughout the ending of the film. The way the plot wraps up will certainly polarize audiences. It allows people to discuss various theories about what certain things may or may not mean, which is one of the most beautiful features of what film can do.
Escape Room is highly unrealistic and is surely not perfect by any stretch. However, the film is entertaining enough throughout the run time, which is the polar opposite of what I expected. I’ll give Escape Room a B+.