When you think of the concept of Escape Room it sounds unique, different, and like it could actually be a solid thriller. Then you wake up and realise it’s just a tame rip-off of Saw without the good story.
The story follows six individuals who find themselves in a series of deadly escape rooms where they have to put their minds together to survive and find a way out. Shit, the more I think about it, this really is just a shitty Saw.
Escape Room occasionally shows glimpses of being something thrilling and turning into an entertaining thriller with some good twists. What it is though, is a bad rendition of Saw with poor writing, bad execution, and performances that don’t do it any favours. The story is very bare and contrived to the point of where I could have written it in my sleep. It tries to build some sort of over-arching big-picture story but it never catches on and is shoehorned in again during the final minutes. There’s no risk taking, it plays everything predictably safe which means there are absolutely no stakes.
Speaking of no stakes… don’t even get me started on how this movie begins. It kicks things off with a tactic straight out of the 2000’s where it opens with a scene from later in the film then flashes back to x-hours earlier. Typically, this is a smart tactic which uses a mysterious and ambiguous scene to build suspense and/or confuse the audience for extra payoff late in the film. The scene that plays out here doesn’t do anything for the story or tension. In fact, it ruins both, it’s just a very obvious and poorly executed spoiler right at the beginning.
As far as the horror goes, it wasn’t scary at all. As far as the thrills go, they’re limited to the first room. The first room is the only sequence in the film where there is a building sense of tension and there’s some hope for the rest of the film. It’s inventive, plays out fairly naturally and had some good minor twists in the method of escape. It’s a shame that the rest of the rooms don’t have the same level of tension. It turns into ridiculous nonsense and whenever it tried to bring in the characters’ pasts as part of the story I couldn’t roll my eyes further back.
The third act goes completely off the rails, it’s like the writers didn’t know how to give the story closure and set things up for a sequel at the same time. It’s rushed and all tension is out the window due to the nonsensical nature of everything going down. If this came out 20 years ago it would have been inventive, but it borrows so much from other films, the main one being Saw, that it’s hard to enjoy it as its own thing.
The dialogue really doesn’t do the story any favours. It makes all of the characters feel like, well, characters, as oppose to real people. A lot of the dialogue probably looked and sounded good on paper but in the context of the film it’s like the actors are reading lines on a board off camera. The cast is made up of Taylor Russell (Zoey), Logan Miller (Ben), Jay Ellis (Jason), Tyler Labine (Mike), Deborah Ann Woll (Amanda), and Nik Dodani (Danny); all of whom are fine actors and have put in some good performances in other projects. They’re not directed well here though. None of them really seem like they’re all there in the characters and it affects how much you can enjoy the film.
Escape Room is a lot of things… good is not one of them. It’s a mess of borrowed ideas, shabby writing, bland performances, and a lack of genuine suspense. Aside from the events in the first room there’s almost no redeeming qualities to go along with it. Maybe if you’re drunk it could be enjoyable, but otherwise it’s better to just skip this one.