“Escape Room” stars Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, and Nik Dodani. Released on January 4, 2019, the film has a group of people attempting to escape a series of deadly escape rooms.
The film is directed by Adam Robitel, who also directed “The Taking of Deborah Logan” and “Insidious: The Last Key”. Just like last year and the year before that, we start off the new year with a horror film. However, this one doesn’t involve monsters and vicious spirits from beyond the grave. It involves the will to survive. This film is inspired by a physical game that has people solving a bunch of puzzles and riddles in order to accomplish…something. It’s a good way to challenge one’s self and flex those brain muscles. The concept in this film is slightly different than the actual escape room because if you don’t solve the puzzle in time, you’re dead. It sounds like something that could work as either a popcorn-munching thrill ride or as another disappointment for director Adam Robitel, whose last film didn’t make that much of an impression for me. Fortunately, for me, it wound up being the former.
The best way I could describe the film’s story is that it is a PG-13 rated version of “Saw” (without the blood and gore), in which a group of people are forced to solve some puzzles in order to escape with their lives. Even though it didn’t rely on the graphic deaths, that doesn’t mean it lacked the intensity that it was going for. This is another film that is just there to provide a heart-pounding experience for its audience, whether the story is good or not. Most people might not appreciate the film’s storytelling that much due to its familiar elements from the other survival horror films, but for me, it had enough substance and suspense to escape from the clutches of mediocrity. What made the thrills work so well was that Adam Robitel understood the concept of an escape room, in which you have to solve a puzzle before time runs out. Add in some effective “life-or-death” scenarios into the mix, and you got yourself a psychological brain-tester that holds you tight until the very end. Despite some missed opportunities to deliver strong character depth, the cast was surprisingly fun to watch, ranging from Taylor Russell as Zoey Davis to “Daredevil” star Deborah Ann Woll as Amanda Harper. My only other concern with this film is that it contains a sequence that may affect certain people with epilepsy. Yes, like “Incredibles 2”, “Escape Room” has a scene that involves strobing lights. This isn’t a flaw, by any means, but I can consider this as a warning for the sake of people who are sensitive to flashing lights. If you have a serious case of epilepsy, I would advise you to either not see it, especially with the lights off, or skip past that scene if you’re planning on watching it at home.
Overall, in spite of its familiar plot, “Escape Room” is just as fun as solving an actual puzzle. Thanks to its solid cast and some well-executed thrills, the film successfully relies on intensity and wits to craft a worthy piece of popcorn entertainment. After having to sit through a poorly-made horror film every January, it’s nice to see one that actually kicks off 2019 on a high note. Here’s hoping that the rest of the films in January can continue that streak. It’s worth a watch for those who are looking for a thrilling experience.