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Film review: 'Escape Room' can't get away from plot, effects

Posted at 10:20 AM, Jan 04, 2019

You're stressed out. You look around frantically, sure that the walls are closing in on you. There appears to be no way out. You look around and see friends and loved ones trapped in a similar situation, and wonder not only how you all wound up in this mess, but why it was that you actually paid to put yourself in this situation.

So where are you, an escape room? Not quite. You're in "Escape Room." The movie. Your plight is the accumulation of questionable choices, and your price is being stuck in a bizarro, idiotic mess for nearly two hours.

Game over. You lose.

A movie that only wound up in theaters because it's the first Friday of the year — the ninth batter slot of the movie world — "Escape Room" manages to meet lowered expectations and somehow manage to slide right below them.

Its C-level stars swap insipid one-liners, perish in a sloppy mess of mediocre special effects and struggle to solve puzzles that range from slap-you-in-the-face obvious to head-shakingly obtuse. Playing like a second-rate "Saw" sequel, it stretches its this premise until it snaps, taking your attention along with it.

Escape rooms are famous for taking groups of friends and loved ones and transforming them into bitter enemies who can no longer stand the sight of one another. Their obtuse, teamwork-oriented puzzles have a dastardly way of breeding distrust and contempt in the name of "team building."

It's only natural that a movie based on the concept would be similarly sinister and counterproductive. Moviegoers expecting something coherent and competent will leave the theater bitter and unfulfilled.
Tyler Labine, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, Logan Miller and Nik Dodani play the hapless contestants who find themselves tricked into taking part in a real-life escape room series that promises $10,000 to the winners. Second prize, they quickly learn, is swift, grisly death.

These sure aren't the sort of rooms you'll find down at the local strip mall. Contestants are torched, dropped, gassed and electrocuted, usually due to their own idiocy. You start to feel guilty for rooting for the escape room itself, rather than any of the dopey characters.

Worse still, director Adam Robitel and his screenwriters go for a twist ending that succeeds in unpredictability only because it's so incomprehensible. By the time the finale hits -- and it makes impact with a thud -- you're so worn out that you're not even annoyed by the inanity. You're simply grateful the end credits are at hand, and with it your sweet escape.

RATING: 1.5 stars out of 4