A group of friends out on Hallowe’en stumble upon an “extreme” haunted house which promises a real life nightmare. However, it soon becomes apparent that something is very wrong in this haunted house, this is one nightmare they won’t wake up from.
A kind of Halloween-cum-Saw-cum-Escape Room, this movie is in no way derivative or exploitative. It’s thrilling, disturbing and tense. I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed a horror this much for a while. From co-writer-director duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the minds behind the wonderful A Quiet Place, you are in for a treat.
This kind of movie usually ends with a stapled-on plot twist which “explains” the motivations of the baddies, even though this ending never follows on logically from the movie itself. Ya know the kind of ending: “It turns out the baddie done it because (s)he’s mad with grief after his son killed himself with drugs as a result of depression caused by failing a single physics class paper set by his teacher — the mother of the protagonist!” On one hand, it was a relief not to have to deal with this kind of movie-ruining ending; on the other hand, the total lack of rhyme and reason for how, why, when the baddie did all of this stops the movie being five stars. There just is no reason or sense to why the baddies do what they do, how they were able to set up their elaborate trap, where our baddies came from, and why nobody have rumbled them before.
Six strangers from very different backgrounds have been invited to take part in an escape room together. Escape rooms are a chance for people to come together, build social skills, be creative, and have fun — win or lose. But it soon becomes apparent that when it comes to this particular escape room, losing is not an option.
A strong concept piece featuring a motley assortment of characters, Escape Room felt like a horror movie in the model of a classic Twilight Zone episode, an exciting mystery . It had shades of movies I’ve enjoyed so much, such as Cube (1997) and Saw (2004), but very much did not feel derivative. Escape rooms themselves are all the rage now, probably because, as one of our players Danny (Nik Dodani) enthuses, they’re like real life computer games.And so this feels a very 2019 twist on those older movies.
Escape Room had plenty of well-judged humour, scares, moments of real tension interspersed with genuine mystery and a sense of the marvellous, and the characters didn’t feel like cut-outs waiting to be killed, but like real people. This definitely elevates Escape Room above most other examples of the survival game subgenre where character, motivation, and plot are so often very much secondary to the creativity of the games and the kills.
The movie began with a bang and then slowed right up in order to introduce all of the characters and the setting. But then the pace kicked back in and didn’t let up. Thrilling. I particularly enjoyed this playing with pacing and also of realism; the movie stretches and snaps back like a rubber band, never breaking nor going too far, but pushing the viewer to the limit.
Escape Room isn’t the first movie based on this concept — for example, we have the confusingly named and dated Escape Room (2017) dir. Will Wernick and, err, Escape Room (2017) dir. Peter Dukes –, but it’s the best so far. It really felt like I was watching this generation’s Saw. And like Saw, there were twists and turns — although, admittedly, none as shocking as that twist from the original Saw. Just as in Saw, each room / trial is brilliantly imaginative; you almost feel yourself “playing along” at home. And just like Saw, I felt myself thinking, “This could easily be a franchise. I think they could make more! I hope they make more! Although any sequel would be milking this concept dry” As it happens, the films ends not with the hint, but the definite confirmation, of a sequel. I felt excited, but also a little sickened by the self-assuredness of this film: gone are the days of teasing the audience and hoping for the box office receipts to make a second movie profitable, now are the days of the five film Netflix deal. None-the-less, the set-up for the sequel looks anything but milking the concept: it promises to be a thrilling and wonderful development, and it’s to be released in 2021.
A great concept, entertaining and real-feeling characters, thrilling, horrific yet fun, Escape Room was both familiar and yet refreshingly different. I loved it, and I cannot wait for the sequel.