Friday Film Review - "Escape Room"

Jan 11, 2019

The new film “Escape Room” is a fun thrill ride. But the film-makers couldn’t figure out how to escape from their own plot.

It’s only natural that someone thought of making a movie based on the trendy gamer attraction of Escape Rooms.  

It’s kind of a PG version of the “Saw” movies—y-know, with a bunch of strangers stuck in a deadly contest.

And it appeals because we enjoy being put in a slightly insecure paranoid situation.    Like wondering if that amusement park ride will jump the track—though we’re absolutely confident it won’t probably.

In this case the hidden games-master running an Escape Room might really be out to get us.

The movie opens in the middle of a cliff-hanger going full blast—then a title says, “Three Days Earlier.”

And we meet the six characters who have all received mysterious invitations to a Room, with the promise of big money for the survivor. There’s a young college girl—brilliant, but scared and timid—a cocky Wall Street stock trader—a scruffy stock-room boy, bitter boozy and chain-smoking—a tough, female Iraqi War veteran—a down-to-earth truck driver—and finally, a nerd who’s been through many other Escape Rooms and reassures the others he knows what is awaiting them.

What they get is a series of six bizarre rooms where they have to figure out the clues and escape, in the nick of time, from perils that include extreme cold, extreme heat, and Petula Clark’s “Downtown” playing on a loop.

It’s no surprise that our contestants get picked off, one by one. One of them even turns out to be kind of a villain (you can guess who.)   and each character has a hidden trauma in their life—which turns out to be their common bond.

Watching all this play out is a lot of fun.   The film is nicely paced by director Adam Robitel. The cast of unknown players—from TV and B movies—are engaging.

The movie stumbles, though, when it tries to wrap up the adventure. It looks like the writers, Bragi Schut and Maria Melnick, couldn’t decide what twist ending to use—so they used about four, piled on top of each other.   

And in addition to opening with the Three Days Earlier hook, they close with a “Months Later’ epilogue. It’s like they fell into all the gimmicks they were warned not to use in that first day of Screenwriting 101.

The inescapable conclusion is that “Escape Room” gets three and a half stars out of five. And also—oh, how do I get out of this review. Oh, yeah, the magic words--- For KPCW’s Friday Film Review, I’m Rick Brough.