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Thu. Dec 12th, 2019

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‘Escape Room’ review: Puzzling, formidable survival flick

3 min read

Adam Robitel’s Escape Room is an extremely fun psychological thriller that redesigns the modern escape game.

Kicking off with a bloody bang, Escape Room opens with a tense and well-executed death trap sequence gone wrong. From there, we meet a struggling stockboy Ben (Logan Miller), physics student Zoey (Taylor Russell), and young trader Jason (Jay Ellis), each of whom receives a mysterious box that serves as an invitation to compete in a series of puzzles and potentially win $10,000. What could go wrong with such harmless offer, eh?

Once they reach the designated meeting place, the trio meet three more unsuspecting players: pyrophobic war veteran Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), former miner Mike (Tyler Labine), and escape room enthusiast Danny Khan (Nik Dodani), and before they realize it, the game has already begun. The group find themselves trapped in a series of rooms, left with nothing but one of the most confusing set of clues ever laid upon. Regrets, frustration and tension immediately creep in the room’s atmosphere. What starts off as a seemingly innocent fun soon turns into a living nightmare. To make things tougher, each room is designed on a specific player’s worst fear and trauma. This sadistic game of life and death requires a strong will and a steady mind to finish so needless to say, many players will be ‘eliminated’ along the way. When all is said and done, the film surprisingly finds redemption in its final moments, with its open-ended plot even offering a tease for a burgeoning franchise to watch out for.

The Waiting Room. L-R: Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Jay Ellis, Taylor Russell and Nik Dodani in ‘Escape Room.’

Taken as a piece of entertainment, Escape Room is extremely fun to watch as it redesigns and adapts modern “escape games” in multiple levels. However this film also satisfies on an introspective level. Rather than leaving each character to a single final destination, the film captures their astounding journey by giving sufficient depth and emotional connection through vital flashbacks, thereby making the story more compelling and its character arcs feel earned.

Confronted by a palpable sense of danger, the group discover that in spite of their background differences, they all share a common connection that leads to the mystery of why they are brought here. Unlike other survivalist and torture porn film franchises like Saw, this film cuts above the sub-genre by engaging its viewers to have an in-depth look to each character’s worst fear. None of them are written just for the sake of being a cannon-fodder. Adam Robitel’s direction brings an unexpected heart and humanity in his proceedings that you can easily find yourself rooting for each character despite their impending demise.

The Ice Room. L-R: Labine, Ellis, Dodani and Logan Miller in ‘Escape Room.’

When it comes to the actual escape rooms in play, these surely won’t disappoint the aficionados. The puzzle rooms are very well-thought and creative – none of which falls on the ‘underwhelming and no-brainer’ category. It helps that the cinematography is remarkable – the framing captures multiple angles hence making spaces look much bigger than they should. The deaths, though not bloody, are still gruesome and unpredictable to satisfy your blood lust, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Escape Room combines elements of survival mystery and psychological thriller in such a mellow yet sinister approach that appeals to a wide range of horror fans – from lite to hardcore. The genius of this film’s concept is that it feels genuine and interactive. It gives off the vibe of you being there, solving puzzles along with the fine actors. What’s more impressive to think is how a set of escape rooms shows the ambition to take charge on a whole universe, the plot sprawling for more unexpected things to come in its possible further sequels.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Adam Robitel and written by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik, ‘Escape Room‘ stars Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis and Nik Dodani. Produced by Columbia Pictures. Run time: 100 minutes.
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