I've never been in an escape room before, but if it's anything like this... not for me.
Look, I went into Escape Room seeking mindless entertainment that could maybe supply an intense moment or two with some creative puzzles to watch unfold. That’s more or less what I got and I’m totally fine with that. I had a good time with this movie. I won’t go as far as to say it was great by any means or perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun ride. Simple as that. Escape Room is a perfectly serviceable hour and a half sit to escape for a bit while we watch this small group of colorful characters interact off of one another as they go through multiple stressful deadly puzzles.
Six strangers accept an unusual invitation to attend a special escape room event. Soon they find themselves trapped within a maze of deadly mystery rooms that they must all combine their wits in order to survive.
Simple Yet Effective
The plot is simple, extremely familiar, yet still effective. Yes, we have seen this premise done before and arguably executed better in other films such as the Cube and Saw series. However, Escape Room still manages to be an enjoyable thrill ride. There was no need for anything groundbreaking to be attempted, the movie clearly wanted to entertain its audience with some interestingly designed death rooms, that’s all and it pretty much succeeded at that. Were there certain aspects that fumbled a bit? Yes, definitely. For the most part, the movie knew exactly what it was and it did not try exceeding that… until the last five minutes, but I’ll get to that soon enough.
The lethal puzzle rooms themselves, I would say, are the coolest part about the whole movie. I will do my best not to spoil too much, but I will be touching on some of the obstacles that our protagonists face within this crazy maze they’re stuck in. There are a handful of rooms with unique qualities about each that stand out from one another; a room that basically turns into a giant oven cooking the characters alive, a snowy cabin in the woods inside freezing cold temperatures, an upside-down pub, a hospital room soon to be filled with toxic gas, a trippy LSD room that looks like an early ‘90s music video, and a library that collapses upon itself. My personal favorite is probably the LSD room with a close second being the upside-down pub, both being the most visually pleasing as well as containing some of the most intense sequences in the whole film. On the other hand, my least favorite is probably the hospital room, only because dying by toxic gas at that point is relatively underwhelming in comparison to what the movie had already presented to us prior.
All of the rooms were all particularly cool to explore as they slowly revealed their deadly intents and all of them felt as though they served a purpose. Even my least favorite death room provided a reason for existing as it gave some necessary backstory on a few of the characters that we had been following for a while up to that point. Was it especially deep backstory? No, but it did its job and gave me a little extra insight into a couple of characters that I was engaged by. Which, I also appreciated the fact that it was somewhat unpredictable as to who would survive and who would succumb to these intricate murderous enigmas. There are characters that I was truly invested in and had my fingers crossed that they would make it out alive, sadly most of the characters I grew to like did not last. Which, I would say, is a positive and a negative about this movie.
Almost all of the cast does a great job, there isn’t too much of a weak link amongst the group here. Although I will say that the least interesting character and possibly the dumbest character does get on my nerves slightly, but he doesn’t last all that long and is taken out pretty early on. I won’t say as to who this character is or describe how he irritated me since that would be a pretty big spoiler, but I will say that he is the first to go and I was pretty relieved when he bit the dust. Everyone else though I was intrigued by in one way or another. The two characters that I was most drawn by were that played by Deborah Ann Woll and Tyler Labine; both wildly different characters, but they brought such charisma, depth, and/or humor into their performances that I was rooting for them from their very introductions. Woll had a way of expressing her emotions with a simple glance from her eyes that really gripped me, while Labine was such a likable personality that I was charmed by from the second he uttered his first line.
A personal gripe that I do have with the film is that a couple of the characters, like I described, are fairly lovable and are downright some of the most interesting that this film has to offer yet the focus is mainly on probably the least interesting or complex characters. I would love to have been able to delve deeper within Labine’s and Woll’s characters, unfortunately, those explorations are short-lived. Not to say that they don’t make it through the whole movie, but they had the most potential for development that seemed rather wasted because the movie took favor over to the characters played by Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, and Jay Ellis instead. These three weren’t bad, not by a long shot, I just had two other characters that I would have preferred to have gotten more attention and disappointingly they didn’t.
A Cliché That Surprisingly Worked Out
There is a cliché in films that I do not much care for and am quite frankly sick to death of seeing. That being the opening scene where the movie starts off with a suspenseful sequence only to cut to black with a prompt reading, “Three Days Earlier”. I hate that cliché with every fiber of my being and cannot stand it when most movies do that anymore. Can that trope work still? Yes, I’ve seen it work before where I thought it flowed just fine and maybe even contributed to the narrative in some way. Most of the time it is used as a lazy excuse to force in an action beat to ‘grip’ the audience early on before it gets into the actual story, only to waste our time and basically spoil its own story so we feel no sense of danger on the way to that specific plot point. In this case, I am surprised to say that this is one of those rare occasions where it actually worked. Not to say that it was genius writing, but it actually did provide a cool and intense opening scene while still leaving more to witness when it comes back into play later. It also was able to let the movie flow better in its third act as it didn’t have to focus on this scene that was shown in the opening as much so it could follow along with what was happening elsewhere, which I appreciated. This was a decent touch that I wasn’t expecting to work out, but I’m happy to report that it did. Good job, Escape Room. Good job!
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Like I said, this isn’t a perfect film. There are criticisms that I do have, whether it be the clunky exposition dialog in the first act or the occasional poor CGI from time to time. Most of that is honestly forgivable and I was able to easily look past all that. The more glaring issues I found were mainly in the film’s third act. It is going to be difficult not to spoil the ending, but there are major problems in the last fifteen minutes that I feel that I must at least acknowledge.
There are a pair of surviving characters that make it through the entirety of the killer maze, once one of them makes it out though, things get odd. What is waiting at the end of all this seems so half-assed that it doesn’t even feel like it’s a part of the same mystery corporation that designed these escape rooms. Just a guy in front of some monitors that is there to explain everything. It felt as if the writer was running out of time on the script and quickly pulled things out of his ass at the last minute. Then when it goes on even further with what happens after the surviving pair get away, it gets really dumb. Somehow it is all up to these two characters to take down this secret organization as they have no real plan. Then for five minutes, it cuts to what feels like the opening of what Escape Room 2 would be, making the surviving couple seem even more idiotic for attempting to fight these villainous people with no plan or backup. Cuts to black and the credits roll. I apologize if I’m either being too vague on the details or if I’m revealing too much, but it was an extremely lackluster finale on what was mostly a solid little flick.
Setting aside my qualms with Escape Room, I still had a decent watch with this one. There are intense sequences, cool visuals, solid acting with interesting enough characters, and that’s all I really wanted out of it. The few times the film tries stretching beyond its limits I do feel that it stumbles a bit and there are moments of exposition that aren’t remotely necessary, but for the most part, it is a fun ride. Take it as it is and you should be satisfied. Will it make my ‘Best of 2019’ list? No. I don’t need a movie to be greatness in order to enjoy it though. Would I prefer to watch Cube? Abso-f*cking-lutely! Escape Room is still fine though, why not go with it? I’ve seen far worse in my life, such as some of the Cube and Saw sequels that warrant more anger than Escape Room so I’m totally content with this.
That’s All Folks!
Escape Room. It’s Escape Room. Not much more to it than that. What did you think though? Did you like or dislike my review? Agree or disagree? Have your fingers crossed that I’ll be set on fire? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a puzzlingly good day. A day so confusing, it’s good!
© 2019 John Plocar
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on May 31, 2019:
If you are in search of a movie with creative death scenes, 'Escape Room' really isn't going to do it for you. This is pretty understated in terms of when a death occurs onscreen. This will not have any of the gore or bloody mayhem seen in any of the examples that you had listed. This is PG-13 and so there isn't a whole lot harder material to witness. Not necessarily a bad thing, it's simply a film that doesn't set its focus on gore is all. It has a slightly different tone from 'Saw' and 'Cube' that relies more on the enigmatic elements of their rooms rather than what bodily harm can be caused to our characters.
Sam Shepards from Europe on May 31, 2019:
Going to watch this one, probably because I did like the saw series and the original cube. I also did enjoy things like Don't Breathe. Mostly rooting for creative deaths instead of survival/escape. Don't know if that's the point for these kinds of movies. For me, that started with Final Destination when I was a teenager or something. :)
By contrast, movies like Halloween that I saw when I was way too young, I would always hope for resolution or death of the villain, probably because I was very scared.