Director: Adam Robitel
Release Date: January 4, 2019
The plot of Escape Room is pretty simple: Six strangers are put in the world’s most difficult escape room with a prize of $10,000 if they can get out. Of course it’s not just a game. The group quickly finds out the hard way that they are playing for their lives.
A plot like this will appeal to fans of movies like Saw, Would You Rather, and The Belko Experiment. Escape Room is a less gruesome version of these movies but still offers the same psychological thrill we’re looking for out of this genre. Each character has his or her reason for attending the game. The rooms each have their own dangerous stakes with puzzles and clues that are well thought out with little room for plot holes. An anonymous antagonist has its eyes on them the whole time, giving just enough clues and putting the group in situations to make tensions run high and pit them against each other.
The characters are all very cliché. Businessman/investor Jason (Jay Ellis), is the selfish-too-cool-for-games bro. He makes some really bad jokes that fall flat at the expense of the escape room nerd, Danny (Nik Dodani). Blue-collar Mike (who is just trying to “get some acorns stashed away before the robots come for his job”) and war hero Amanda (who fought in Iraq) are possibly the most generic characters of the group. Ben is the outcast. He’s working a dead-end job at a grocery store. Finally, there’s Zoey, who over the course of the movie transforms from the book-worm straight-A-student to the most resilient outside-the-box-thinker of the group.
Despite its flaws, the movie isn’t completely unwatchable. The story keeps you engaged as you wonder who is going to slip up next. And, of course, there’s the always “what would I do in that situation?” question you ask yourself.
Like the aforementioned movies, Escape Room plays with the minds of our characters and of the audience as you put yourself in their shoes. It’s not as elaborate as Saw or as straight forward as Would You Rather. The movie has some meta/self-referential moments hitting on points like why people enjoy watching these types of situations, the answer being because we like seeing who will do what under high stakes pressure. It’s that reason, combined with the twists that this subgenre has lasted so long.
If Escape Room does well at the box office, expect a sequel to follow in the near future. It has the feel of a movie that should go straight to streaming services. Bad acting, little to no character development and a thriller plot that has been done so many times before. That being said it will make money at the box office. Given it’s genre and PG-13 rating, every high school kid in your town will be out on dates trying to cuddle up to their s/o during this generic high-stakes fight-to-survive thriller.