Escape Room is a PG-13 Saw film – lacking the moral guidance of jigsaw pulling the strings… or it’s signature twist endings.
Here we go again… Six strangers find themselves in a locked room trapped in a deadly game orchestrated by a mysterious mastermind. Clues (and alot of keys) are laid out for them to uncover and solve in order to move onto the next room-puzzle and ultimately their final escape. Yeah yeah, it’s in the title…
Directed by 2014’s The Taking of Deborah Logan’s Adam Robitel (let’s not discuss his latest films) Escape Room bring’s together a surprisingly decent cast. Taylor Russell (Lost in Space 2018) is a soon-to-be break out star. She plays the films believably smart and capable lead, and mostly commands the screen with little effort and a weak script. The film takes off moderately quick, dropping it’s characters into the puzzle-game scenario with almost no character set-up. Instead, we learn about them through a series of 10-second flashbacks spread out conveniently across the film. However, the cast is reduced to two-dimensional characters. If this is starting to sound familiar to Saw that’s because it is. The issue is, unlike Saw, it lacks characters you learn have made horrible choices in their lives and the game is only a means to help them grow or face some sort of fear that will alter their lives (and those who fail…well, they had it comin’). That missing ‘redemption factor’ would have been key to solving this movies character problem. The final slap in the face to character development is how excessively cruel this movie is (there’s a body count), much like 2016’s The Belko Experiment.
But wait!… it’s not all bad…
Let’s face it… we’re really here for the thrilling and over-the-top puzzles, and i’m surprised to report it actually delivers on a few great thrills. The set pieces are mostly well thought-out and the production design is top-notch. The most notable being an upside-down room where the ceiling (or um floor?) is slowly chipping away. Some puzzles are ridiculously hard but one in particular is mind-numbingly easy and unnecessarily solved with the help of another conveniently laughable flashback. The film also does away with the puzzle-genre trope of having one annoying character you wish the others would kill. For the most part, all characters are civil and don’t immediately turn to douche-tactics to survive.
FINAL VERDICT: Even with the same tired problems of other Saw knock-offs, Escape Room manages to succeed in the cheap thrills department. If you also manage to escape the theater prior to it’s ridiculously long and cheesy conclusion… you might just feel as though you walked out of a solid genre thriller.
Rating: PG-13 (for terror/perilous action, violence, some suggestive material and language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Adam Robitel
In Theaters: Jan 4, 2019 wide
Studio: Columbia Pictures