High-concept horrors have been thin on the ground lately. The likes of Saw and The Cabin in the Woods hitting heights that others simply struggle to even compete with have left the horror genre with a small gap in the market. Step in Escape Room, taking the now popular real-life game to all sorts of crazy levels with rooms that seem to come to life with little thought on how this would ever actually work.
Escape Room owes a lot of credit to the aforementioned films. Both Saw and The Cabin in the Woods can be seen all over this film – seemingly innocent people being pulled into a game they know little about, a hidden figure manipulating events while the cast fulfil their cliché-ridden roles with admirable energy. It’s no discredit either, Escape Room is a perfectly acceptable film that will kill a few hours, but never seems one capable of doing much scaring.
Accepting a mysterious invite, six strangers agree to take part in the ultimate escape room competition for the chance to win $10,000 – an interesting scenario at first, but one that they will all soon regret. The set-up is simple enough, even if the opening scene does a little too much in letting us know how this will go down. For a film that eventually wins you over with its high level of suspense, it’s strange how much the opening scene gives away.
Director Adam Robitel is slowly making a name for himself in the horror genre. With previous efforts such as Insidious: The Last Key and The Taking of Deborah Logan, Escape Room continues the trend of solid if unspectacular efforts that are a bit like eating fast food – it’s done the job, but it wasn’t particularly healthy and you feel a bit dirty afterwards, or is that just me?
The cast are solid and the actors try their best with limited material, but the characters are weak caricatures of the genre. Typically, there’s the virgin, the nice guy, the dickhead jock and the one who thinks he knows what is going on when really, he has no idea. Two new additions are suitably the annoyingly selfish millennial and the rather cool army vet played by Deborah Ann Woll. Woll takes on her role in usual committed fashion, and genuinely feels like the only memorable person to take an active part in proceedings. If Escape Room dared to make the entire film about her character, we would have a much more driven piece here.
Regardless of this, Escape Room completes its task in entertaining audiences. With logic willingly abandoned, it is a far more enjoyable film than it has any right to be. The spectacle and outrageous design of each “room” is a wonderful experience, with the standout being the bar that is literally upside down. Quite how these were designed to fit into an obscure tower block in Chicago is beyond the capacity for rational thought, but by this point you are either completely sold or swearing at the screen asking how a film can be so stupid. What Escape Room does, it does well and I will commend it for owning up to how ludicrous it all is and running with it.