Review: “Escape Room” (2019)

Jean Aquino, Opinion Editor

Directed by Adam Robitel and starring Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, and Jay Ellis, Escape Room is a mystery-thriller that follows the journey of a group of strangers, as they attempt to outsmart a wicked game. Randomly invited to test their skills at a Minos Escape-Room with a winning prize of $10,000, the main characters think they are in for a fun brain twister. However, they soon realize the danger of their situation, as finding an exit to each room becomes a contest of survival.

The movie starts with a clip of one of the players, Ben, frantically trying to crack a code, located on what he believes is an exit to the room. Running out of time, the walls of the room move together until he appears to be crushed between them. Though it attempts to establish the thriller-like tone of the movie, this extended clip only spoils important plot points and disrupts the build up of the movie later on, when is omitted as part of a fast-forward.

Immediately following this, the audience is introduced to the main characters, with all of their diverse backgrounds and personalities. Within the Minos escape-room building, the players realize that the ‘waiting room’ is actually the first room they must escape. While searching for clues, each find oddly specific items that relate to their own personal lives.

Instead of a timer that displays how long they have left to escape, the room starts to heat like an oven. Coincidentally, one of the players is a burn victim and war veteran who begins to panic as she fights flashbacks that pull her out of consciousness. However, everyone leaves the room more or less unharmed, before the place is torched completely.

The subsequent rooms continue with the trend of being personal to traumatic, near-death experiences that the players have had. Seeing the escape-rooms become a mental game as much as a physical one adds to the intensity of the film and smoothly builds up to the climax of the story.

The difficulty of the rooms increases, adding to the hazards of the game, and leads up to what could have been a great climax to the movie. Unfortunately, the plot quickly reduces to a hot mess, starting with the death of the protagonist, Zoey. Until this moment, the audience had been led to believe that if anyone was smart enough to survive the entirety of the game, it was Zoey. Her death also disrupts the unofficial rule that one person must die in each room, as another character also fails to escape the same chamber.

In the next room, the last two remaining players are crippled by a hallucinogen and scramble to find an antidote. Yet, their perfectly simultaneous encounter with the drug seems purely contingent, as the scene hastily eliminates another player.

To make things even more choppy and rushed, the movie skips past the scene from the beginning (which already showed the audience who would survive to the end of the movie). In a poorly executed plot twist, Ben survives being crushed in the last room and comes face to face with the game-master. Part two of this plot twist involves Zoey’s reappearance, after coming back from the dead and somehow leading herself to a violent fight between Ben and the game-master. Killing the game-master, and realizing the entire escape-room game was being watched for entertainment, Zoey and Ben can finally leave the building and report the incident to the police.

Predictably, the authorities do not believes their outrageous story of human manipulation and death. Upon returning to the Minos building, Zoey has a vision which indicates that the game has not yet truly ended.

By this point, enough mistakes had been made to thoroughly let down the audience. The movie could have ended here, with a passable, average cliffhanger.  

But no, Escape Room continued with its crooked plotline as Zoey and Ben make plans to find the headquarters of Minos. The movie eventually ends with a scene displaying the complex planning of a new escape-room, designed to target Zoey and Ben once again.

The most upsetting thing about the plot failure of Escape Room, is that the beginning and middle of the story showed potential for a great thriller movie. Escape Room contains captivating creative elements and showed a well thought out execution for the first hour, but awkwardly fell apart in an ending that hindered the success of the film as a whole.

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