Film Reviews Horror Reviews Thriller Reviews

ESCAPE ROOM Is an Inventive Thrill Ride

Several strangers are locked inside a deadly game when their premier escape room invite exposes a more sinister purpose. Directed by horror filmmaker Adam Robitel, Escape Room holds frightening puzzles and balanced tension, even in its weaker moments.

Introverted college student Zoey (Taylor Russell) receives a mysterious puzzle box containing an invitation to an escape room experience, with a $10,000 prize attached. Five others have also received the same invite, all from different walks of life. Only one is super thrilled to be there, an escape room superfan, but the others are only motivated by money.

While sitting in the waiting room, they unknowingly start up the game. As they try to solve the puzzle, the room begins to heat up to a dangerous level. The temperature rises with every minute, and panic sets in. But solving this room won’t be the end, as they’ll soon realize they’ve entered a dangerous maze. And it’s only looking for one winner.

This 2019 psychological horror film caught my attention when the initial trailer was released, but it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finally watch it. And honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to find Escape Room to be a well-executed flick.

It manages to build great suspense that takes you near the edge of your seat with its inventive traps. Each room is well designed, with great attention to detail, especially when it begins to tie back to character backstories. Ironically, it made me a little eager to book an escape room to test my skills.

And speaking of character backstories, the film does a decent job with character development, building a lot through subtle exposition. Though, the flashbacks at times felt clunky and unnecessary. But I appreciated the approach in establishing the connections among all the characters.

My biggest gripe with the film is how they marketed it as a horror movie. It leans more into an action-thriller category, and while a deadly escape room is rather scary, much of what transpires is rather tame. It takes on a B-movie-like quality — whether intentional or not.

The film slightly loses itself in the third act, as they begin to solve the mystery of who is behind the puzzles. It teeters away from the clever idea it started with, and it’s apparent there was a switch later in production towards focusing on a nefarious corporation, which I feel very split on.

Despite some flaws, mostly my nitpicking, Escape Room is an imaginative thriller that capitalized well off a humble immersive game. In the end, it’s an amusing watch and keeps you hooked through all its twists and turns. I’m curious to see if its 2021 follow-up offers the same thrills.

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