The growing popularity of Escape games over the years left the door wide open for some creative Hollywood-types to cash in on the craze where people pay good money to be locked up in a room for 60 minutes, while hunting for clues to find a way out.
The first film outing in 2017 by director Will Wernick was a lacklustre attempt that hardly saw any takers. It took producers Original Films and Columbia Pictures another year before roping in horror film veteran Adam Robitel to have another go at this story.
Surprisingly, viewers don’t have to wait for the third time to be a charm as ‘Escape Room’ plays an exciting game, with a tighter premise and a slick production that works on most part. Despite some glaring flaws — and a finale that agreeably conforms to every cliche in the book — what largely works for the film is a narrative that keeps you at the edge of your seat as you follow a group of six misfits playing for their very lives.
Agreeably, several films in this genre have followed a similar bloody trail with film franchises such as ‘Saw’ milking the thrill factor for every penny. While ‘Escape Room’ skips the gore that ‘Saw’ gleefully played with, this new outing doesn’t roll the dice too far from an all too familiar plot.
‘Escape Room’ forces a group of strangers to play seven different escape rooms in a bid to win $10,000 (Dh36,725), unknowing of the deadly consequences if they don’t decipher clues in time. In a subtle analogy, the makers draw parallels to the philosophical seven virtues, with Zoey Davis (Taylor Russell) playing the innocent, shy college student battling demons brought on by a previous trauma. The fractured past is what ties in the other five players as well, with Amanda Harper (Deborah Ann Woll) playing a war veteran, while Ben Millar (Logan Miller) comes to the playoffs with a past that sent him hurtling down a black hole.
Jason Walker (Jay Ellis) plays the token jock, while Mike Nolan (Tyler Labine) and Danny Khan (Nik Dodani) round up the merry gang with backstories that barely warrant a mention (probably to move the story along in the limited runtime).
Herded from room to room, the gang noticeably gets thinner as it races against time to solve the deadly puzzles. By the film’s third act, you can see the ending solve itself and it is at this turning point where the plot falters. Rather than building on the climax towards a satisfying finale, the makers seem too busy laying the foundation for a sequel.
Borrowing heavily from the ‘Saw’ factory of films once again, things turn fairly routine as the makers unveil its resident ‘Games Master’ who eagerly embarks on a lesson in pop psychology and moral policing. As a fan of the genre, it is quite frustrating to face this level of predictability, yet Robitel does get credit for laying out an impressive set piece acts one and two that make you eager to play this game again.
Go watch it if you enjoying the first few films in the ‘Saw’ franchise. And for those of you wondering, Robitel has confirmed he will return to direct the sequel, due April 2020.
Don’t miss it!
‘Escape Room’ is out in the UAE on February 28.