The first new release of the year arrives in the form of Escape Room from Columbia Pictures. Directed by Adam Robitell with a screenplay by Bragi Schut and Maria Melnik, Escape Room attempts to bring the real-life game craze of escape rooms to the big screen and succeeds for the most part. The film opens up with one of the characters bring dropped into a room where he must solve a puzzle to gain his freedom. The film then introduces us to three of our characters who will later be players in the escape room.
The players include student Zoey (Taylor Russell), slacker Ben (Logan Miller) and stock trader Jason (Jay Ellis). Jason easily appears to be the most confident of the group, while Zoey and Ben both have self-esteem issues. All three receive a mysterious box which is an invitation to the Minos Escape Room Facility where the top prize is ten thousand dollars. Naturally the three jump at the chance, and when they arrive, they meet the competition. The fellow competitors include Iraqi war Vet Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), blue-collar worker Mike (Tyler Labine) and escape-room fanboy Danny (Nik Dodani).
The group then begins the first challenge which takes place in the waiting room, where the players met each other. From there it’s the survival of the fittest to declare the winner, and that’s when the fun of Escape Room begins. Walking into Escape Room, I had low expectations for the movie as PG-13 horror movies released in January are usually very by the numbers. However, the script by Bragi Schut and Maria Melnik takes the time to develop the characters, which was surprising. When the reveal of why the six were chosen for the “game,” I smiled at the writer’s choice.
Director Adam Robitell who isn’t a stranger to the horror genre does a fantastic job crafting suspense in the film. As opposed to focusing on cliché jump scares, director Robitell shift his focus to the suspense. One particular scene which involves an inverted bar kept me on the edge of my seat. Regarding the acting, the cast does the best with the material they can with Jay Ellis as Jason, being the standout.
While Escape Room is genuinely fun, there were moments in the film I didn’t care. I didn’t care for the character of Ben (Logan Miller). It’s never a good sign when I’m rooting for a character to die. I would’ve swapped Ben’s arc with Danny’s (Nik Dodani) as Dodani was more charismatic on screen than Logan Miller. I also wouldn’t have shown a character face in the opening scene. Director Adam Robitell could have used nothing but the dialogue, and the effect wouldn’t change.
Finally, Escape Room has too many false endings, which hurts the film. There were numerous moments where the film could’ve ended, but Escape Room keeps going. Setting up a sequel isn’t hard for a horror genre film like Escape Room. However, the route that screenwriters Bragi Schut and Maria Melnik decide to go would’ve worked better as the inevitable sequels opening.
Escape Room isn’t the kind of movie that wins awards, nor will it be remembered this time next year. Escape Room wants to do nothing more than provide thrills for the audience, and in that regard, it succeeds.
Final Grade B-