Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani
Director: Adam Robitel
Screenplay by: Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik
Story by: Bragit F. Schut
I made a big promise to myself that I would try to see every horror movie that comes out this year. It’s honestly because 99% of the ones coming out are extremely my shit. However, there are two movies I was extremely hesitant about, and one of those films was Escape Room. (If you’re wondering, the other is Child’s Play.)
I go in with low-expectations when it comes to horror films that want to be baby franchises. The repetitive nature that are shown in films franchises like Saw, Insidious or Paranormal Activity are enough to just… don’t amp me up for what’s to come in between. Don’t get me wrong! There are some gems in there, but after the third movie, it’s almost guaranteed to be hit or miss. Escape Room seems to be a little different. By that I mean, the film is the start of a promising franchise. I might eat my words later on, but I stand by this statement for now. Escape Room is off to an incredible start that feels weirdly refreshing and relies very much on the intelligence and anxiety of both the viewer and players.
Escape Room tells the story of Zoey (Taylor Russell), a shy physics student trying to get by the best she can. She’s joined by Jason (Jay Ellis), a successful and no-nonsense executive. Ben (Logan Miller) who is a grocer who has a pretty much shitty existence. Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll) who is a young war veteran. Mike (Tyler Labine) is an older gentleman and a former miner. Lastly, Danny (Nik Dodani) is a gamer who lives for the thrill of escape rooms. The six strangers are brought together by a mysterious organization called Minos Escape Room Facility. The strangers must concur every room and figure out clues to keep going. Easy, right? Well, there’s a twist. Each room is designed to prey upon the strangers with their worst fears, and each room is very fucking deadly.
Now, again, when seeing Escape Room or hearing its premise, you’d roll your eyes. You’d most likely think “Wow, escape rooms? How original.” Let me tell you this, my friend. This film is pretty damn original. We’re all aware of how escape rooms work, so mix that with Saw and then you’d be in for the most dangerous game of your life. Adam Robitel gives some great direction within this film. That’s the highest of compliments because he has directed some of the worst fucking franchise movies I’ve ever seen. (Don’t @ me cause I fucking hate Insidious: The Last Key and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.) With Escape Room, Robitel thinks of every possible angle that makes this worthwhile from beginning to end.
The one thing that Robitel brings to life brilliantly is the screenplay written by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik. It’s incredible how brilliant and self-aware each trap is and how they perfectly complete the ensemble cast. That’s another thing. The script doesn’t sound hokey or a pass-off. Each of the characters have their characteristics that you separate instantly. They seem cliche AT FIRST, but every person has a backstory, and every backstory has a trauma waiting to be told from within that room. Even the backstories that we don’t get, they’re discovered, and we’re still fascinated by them.
Again, not to beat this dead horse, but it’s kind of like Saw. Each character has a backstory with a motive and motivation, but that gets so muffled throughout the story that you’re not sure who’s going to survive. The script is only better because of the actors who play them, and holy wow, they also blew my expectations.
The actors of Escape Room are incredible just because they’re such a mismatched combination of people that works perfectly within this setting of the film. They all nail who their characters are and what they’re meant to portray. Tyler Labine and Nik Dodani do a damn fine job within their respective roles, but the real stars of the show are Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Jay Ellis, and Taylor Russell, especially Russell. As each situation become more deadly, this is when these stars shine. Woll’s character as a vet has her becoming more physical in this role, and it will have you screaming, “DAMN.” Ellis is cocky, but it fits his snarky and sarcastic ‘every man for himself’ character until the very end. Miller fits the kid who lost everything in an instant, frustrated and brooding but still pushing forward because he has to.
Russell is the best of all. She undergoes being a smart and shy girl who carries PTSD from her childhood to a smart and shy girl that’s ready to play your game. She and Miller even lead into the next movie of the franchise which makes you excited to follow their journey because they’re the most interesting characters to follow inside this movie.
Escape Room is a start to what could be a great franchise, IF AND ONLY IF, they keep this momentum going. The only thing that ruined this film for me, in the end, was the slight “exposure” of the company. I know it’s not good to keep your audience in suspense, however, I would have preferred it with this film. Overall, Escape Room deserves your attention, if only just got one watch. It’s a witty, fun and great way to start a new year of horror.