Director: Peter Dukes
Run time: 86 min
Just in time for Halloween, I’ve been checking out some recommended horror movies this week. On my list was a recent release that cashes in on the increasing mainstream interest in Escape rooms, the innovatively titled Escape Room.
(Warning: Spoilers for the movie’s first half below.)
After an unnecessarily long intro set somewhere in the Arabian desert, we’re introduced to a comically intense Escape Room owner, played by Skeet Ulrich, shouting at an employee about how his venue is no longer in the top ten list of Los Angeles escape rooms. Looking for something to ‘spice up his room’, he walks into a collectable antiques shop straight out of an eighties movie, run by Blade Runner’s Sean Young. Their conversation includes a subtle Annabelle reference and there’s also a nod to Gremlins when Sean Young’s character Romona is on the phone with a customer, all adding to the eighties throwback flavour of the movie. “Don’t get it get wet, and don’t feed it after midnight.”
Brice is captivated by a locked box which Romona explains is known as the Skullbox, an extremely dangerous object which contains a demon, and should probably (definitely) NOT be opened (Spoiler not spoiler- someone opens it). The box is inexplicably left unattended, so unsurprisingly, Brice is able to steal the box, thinking it will create needed interest in his business. Romona, completely nonplussed, nay, amused, tut tuts and carries on with her life.
Enter two horror geeks trailing ever more 80’s horror references (You’re Next, The Thing, Halloween) who have planned an evening at Brice’s escape venue. They’ve dragged along their girlfriends who are predictably shallow and so not into it. Brice, alarmingly intense as ever, puts sacks over their heads and into the room they go. Brice reminds the players that they’ll be locked in a soundproof room. The only way to know what’s happening inside is through an in room camera, which naturally stops working several minutes into the game. Front of house employee Molly sensibly suggests they simply check in on the players, but Brice is concerned that interrupting them will cause them to leave a bad review. Meanwhile, the players have been looking around their room for clues and puzzles, and proceed to open up the Skullbox….
I won’t reveal anymore, but, suffice to say, what follows is definitely not going to be good for Brice’s already struggling business. That one potential bad review will be the least of his problems.
I was always engaged while watching Escape Room, even if it was often a result of unintentional humour. There’s certainly the novelty factor. I expected it to be similar to the Saw franchise (and there’s plenty of Saw escape rooms out there) but it’s different enough to stand on its own. There’s fun references with various nods to horror tropes and movies. The problem is it follows several of those tired tropes itself, which is confusing – is it self aware or not?
It certainly would have been nice to see a lot more character development, and I include the demon in that, whose story is never really fleshed out. Character choices are often bizarre with no backstory to support them. Also, demon aside, I wouldn’t be in a big rush to visit Brice’s escape room. There were some pretty generic puzzles in there…
If you’re an escape room and/or horror enthusiast, Escape Room is worth a watch. Just don’t expect the same thrill as when you finally crack open that fiendish directional lock you’ve been working on for ten minutes. I’m left wondering what more could be done in the future with an escape room theme rather than viewing Escape Room as the benchmark.
Escape Room gets five pairs of bloody scissors out of ten