TSJ Reviews ESCAPE ROOM (2017)

TSJ Reviews ESCAPE ROOM (2017)

Film: ESCAPE ROOM (2017)
Starring: Evan Williams, Elizabeth Hower, Annabelle Stephenson, Dan J. Johnson
Director: Will Wernick
Writer: Noah A.D.
Budget: Unknown

It took me a little bit to decide whether I wanted to write this review or not.

ESCAPE ROOM (2017) is a compelling but flawed movie. It’s an 80 minute horror/suspense film about a group of twenty-somethings who clearly inhabit the upper crust of society. How wealthy are they? The price of the escape room in question is a thousand dollars per person, and one of the characters pays the entire bill to participate (for six people) and has no qualms doing so. Part of the draw of the movie was watching these wealthy millenials being put through hell, but the movie fell apart about halfway through and never fully recovered.

Here’s the trailer:

The production values are great, the actors are young and beautiful, the film is fast paced and it’s interesting to see them thrust into a deadly situation where their lives are at stake. In this way it’s similar to TRUTH OR DARE, which I reviewed here. ESCAPE ROOM is a strangely compelling film, which I sat through and didn’t once think about switching off or walking away from. So I did enjoy it … but I just wish that the filmmakers had followed through on some fascinating threads established in the prologue and title sequence. I wonder if perhaps the movie did have a bit more to it that ended up on a cutting room floor … ?

The Story

Christen (Elizabeth Hower) plays the beautiful girlfriend of Tyler (Evan Williams). She’s arranged the escape room as a birthday present for Tyler, who happens to be cheating on her with Natasha (Annabelle Stephenson). Natasha, however, is married to Anderson (Dan J. Johnson), who seems to be oblivious to the cheating. Also accompanying them are Conrad and Tabby, two characters whose soul purpose seems to be to fool around with each other while the events unfold around them. The relationships are established well enough during dinner at the beginning of the film. Also established is Tyler’s intelligence (he calculates the bill to the cent without much thought) and it’s a good setup to the film. He is also a callous snob, evidence perhaps that the script has something horrible in store for him. Has one of his friends arranged this? Is it because of the cheating? Or is it something different altogether? Is Tyler going to get what’s coming to him … or will his intelligence save him?

During the expensive evening out, they get trapped in a deadly escape room, but the price to play is more than just money. Once there, they’re forced to use their wits in order to escape, or they die. It’s a lighter version of SAW. The traps aren’t as deadly, but people in the escape room die, and painfully. It’s a great concept — escape rooms are all the rage right now — but it’s a short movie and the script falls apart at the end. The established plot threads from the beginning of the movie are not followed through on — which is frustrating — and few answers are provided. The opening, however, is gripping. Kudos to the director and writer for this. It sets up a universe not unlike SAW, featuring a master manipulator playing with peoples’ lives seemingly for his own pleasure. It’s something I wanted the film to explore. Why are the participants chosen? What’s the end game? Why is he doing this?

There’s not much meat to the story. There is another character, Hadlee, unable to attend the escape room adventure. As it turns out, she leaves early in order to participate in a risqué party of some sort, and I was wondering at the end if perhaps she had something to do with the sinister events. Sadly, the plot threads never come together, but there is indeed a connection. If you figure it out, do tell me.

Overall it’s a flawed but entertaining film, very well made and well-acted, with excellent cinematography and a good cast (especially Hower and Williams) and some great plot threads that could have made it all so much better. Will Wernick did a great job directing, and I’m going to follow his career closely to watch for his future projects.

Give this one a shot if you dare, and enjoy it based on the actors, concept, and production values. Beware of unanswered questions, however. ESCAPE ROOM made me think, but wouldn’t tell me if I guessed correctly. In that respect, I’m still stuck in the room, unable to figure out the plot in order to save my own life. I did enjoy the experience though. It was definitely worth the rental.

(One more note — there are two movies with this title, and soon to be three. If you want to watch this version, make sure you get the correct cast.)

TSJ’s rating: 7/10

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FIRST PLACE 2018 GLOBAL THRILLER Action / Adventure Category Winner & 2018 CLUE Award Semi-Finalist


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