Ok, let me be clear – I am a fan of horror movies. I have been since I was a little girl. While others squirmed at slasher films, I found the humor in them. Similar to riding a roller coaster, I found them to be scary, but I enjoyed them. So, if you are a horror junkie like me, “Escape Room” will most likely not quench your thirst. However, if you approach the film thinking of it as more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie, then it is quite enjoyable.
If you’ve ever visited an escape room, you understand the pressure of trying to solve a puzzle in order to exit in time. The film plays on this with a dynamic and high-energy opening that sets the tone for the film. We see a young man straining to exit a room in ruin and we immediately realize that the stakes are higher than usual because his life is clearly in danger. If he does not answer the puzzle correctly, a tragedy is bound to happen.
The best way to describe this movie is that it is similar to the “Saw” franchise, but without the gore. But for many fanatics of the “Saw” movies, the gore was half of the allure, which is why audiences are mixed on their reaction to “Escape Room.” Sony Pictures follows a recognizable template – a group of people are together, people start getting killed one-by-one, and leave a good enough cliff hanger for a sequel.
We are introduced to six strangers who could not appear to be more disconnected, but as the mystery unfolds, they learn the ties that bind them together. They are lured to a secret location with the hope of winning a sizeable cash prize for completing the challenge. Everyone is taken off guard when they realize that the game had already started as they sat in the waiting room. As they navigate through each room, they must find clues and answer puzzles in order to move on without harm. Of course, everyone does not make it out whole. The various escape rooms prick at each players insecurities and past traumas, which makes the elaborate rooms more intriguing.
Breakout performance hands down goes to Jay Ellis, who plays tough-hearted executive Jason Walker. Viewers most likely fell in love with him for his portrayal of Lawrence in HBO’s “Insecure,” where we saw him as vulnerable. But, his role as Jason is the exact opposite. His dry humor, sarcasm and ruthlessness shows him stretching beyond what we are used to seeing him as. The overall casting in the film is commendable, as every actor is completely believable in their various roles. I loved the juxtaposition of the main female players in the game in Taylor Russell as the shy college student and Deborah Ann Woll as the strong army veteran. Both women show their value and strength in varying and personal ways, showcasing that women are not one dimensional and can add value in atypical ways.
As noted, audiences are mixed about “Escape Room.” For some, the movie just hits too close to home. The movie has actually delayed its release in Poland due to a real-life escape room tragedy where five teenagers died in a fire at an escape room facility there earlier this month. But, that hasn’t stopped domestic audiences from at least seeing what the hype is about. To date, the film has grossed over $32 million.
My Reel Review for this film is 2.5 out of 5 stars. While it can pass for a decent suspense thriller, it cannot really stand as a good horror movie. However, I can see the franchise having substantial success, but probably not at the level of “Saw” unless the horror and gore levels get ramped up substantially.