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Escape room

Escape Room: The Movie Review (Contains spoilers)

This is a 2019 American psychological horror film with the tag-line, "Everyone's Dying To Play". It was competently helmed by Adam Robitel, who previously cut his teeth with his found-footage chiller for Netflix entitled "The Taking of Deborah Logan", as well as a film in the "Insidious" franchise.
2020.11.27.

This is a 2019 American psychological horror film with the tag-line, "Everyone's Dying To Play". It was competently helmed by Adam Robitel, who previously cut his teeth with his found-footage chiller for Netflix entitled "The Taking of Deborah Logan", as well as a film in the "Insidious" franchise. Writing duties fell to Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik. It stars nobody we know and it's best to keep it that way, as there are no Oscar winning performances to be found here. The synopsis is that we are following a group of people who take part in an escape room game, but with the games being a touch more deadly than you might find in the one's you play locally. Though the movie was actually shot in South Africa in late 2017, it didn't find a distributor until January 2019. Then Sony Pictures picked it up. And they sure had a doozy. With a budget of just $9 million it went on to bank a world-wide gross of $155.7 million. And that's why, dear readers, you'll be able to look forwards to Escape Room 2, "the sequel", with a planned release date somewhere in 2021.

The Plot 

So we start off with a bunch of good looking thin people (apart from one, who has to die for the sin of being overweight) who have no connection with each other. They receive a strange black box with an invitation for them to partake in an Escape Room Challenge. They all meet up in a bland Chicago office building, which, as you'll see, turns out to be more than the sum of it's parts. The winner of the game will receive $10,000. Here come the character tropes: Ben; a convenience store clerk, Amanda; an army vet, Danny; a nerd gamer and escape room enthusiast, Jason; the arrogant financial trader, Zoey; a shy physics student and the older, over weight, slob truck driver Mike, whose just disposable...though in truth, isn't the first to die, and hangs in there like a real trooper. 

In The Beginning

As they are all gathered in the lobby of the office block waiting for the Games Master (who never shows up), we get to know a little about each one. But when Ben tried to leave, the door handle comes off in his hands. At this point they realize that the game has started. This room turns out to be a giant oven. They all manage to escape just as the room fills with fire. Next they find themselves in a Winter cabin in the middle of a very cold CGI Winter. It's just a movie, so don't think too deeply about the plot structure....just go with it. In the cabin the temperature is dropping and they have to find a key. Here we have our first victim, young Danny, who falls through the ice and is a gonna. At this point some of the players start to notice that certain clues and puzzles are in some ways connected with their own pasts. For example, Ben heard a song before being involved in a serious car wreck. And Jason is reminded of a red coat he wore when escaping a ship wreck. 

Why Are They Here?

Moving on...we find the remaining five contestants entering an upside down billiard room. The floor shifts and parts of it fall into a massive hole below (or above, depending on which way you look at it). There's a missing eight ball which Amanda, the Iraqi war vet retrieves and throws to Jason, just before meeting her timely demise. In the next room, which is a hospital ward, it's revealed why the six players were bought together. They all were survivors of various disasters. Just like the kids in Final Destination. So Amanda survived an IED blast, Jason was in a ship wreck and Danny was the only survivor of a family tragedy of carbon monoxide poisoning. Mike escaped a mine cave-in, Ben survived a fatal car crash that killed three of his friends and Zoey walked away from a plane crash. 

Let The Bodies Hit the Floor

Zoey, being the big-brain here (and a progressive person of color), realizes that the purpose of the game is to work out who's the luckiest. She also refuses to continue taking part and destroys all the surveillance cameras. Apparently the room is about to be filled with a poison gas and they need a player with a certain heart rate to open the exit. Because Mike is overweight it looks like he's the key, but his elevated heart rate is still too low. So Jason, beaks out the defibrillator and promptly kills Mike by accident. Proving that you can't have an older fat guy win. But this solves the puzzle and while Jason and Ben make their escape, Zoey refuses to follow and is swallowed up by the gas. The next room is full of strobe lights (for those of you with epilepsy) and optical illusions. Ben and Jason have ingested a hallucinogenic drug and both need an antidote, of which there's only a single dose. In the ensuing fray, Ben takes Jason out of the movie and is able to inject and thus save himself. 

The Climax

And now we get to the final room. A bit like the garbage compactor of the first Death Star in Star Wars, the walls move inwards to crush the rooms contents. Now we leave Ben channeling Luke Skywalker as he's being slowly squashed and track-back to Zoey. As guys come into the hospital ward dressed in hazmat suits in order to clear the room, Zoey jumps out from nowhere and starts taking them out like a boss. Meanwhile, Ben has solved the last room and is able to finally meet the Games Master. This dude, played by Netherlands actor, Yorick van Wageningen, kindly fills in any plot holes by explaining that these games are an annual event. The player's selection is based on them having something in common, and they are being watched by wealthy gamblers who bet on the final outcome. He also explains that he just works there, and that Ben should save his indignation for the Puzzle Maker who designs the games. For the grand final, the Games Master tries to kill Ben, but young Zoey jumps in and together they manage to send the Games Master out of the script and back to his acting agent.

The Beginnings Of A Franchise

With Ben recovering, Zoey goes back to the building with a detective. Of course no one believes her as all the evidence has since disappeared. Various newspaper articles point to the accidental deaths of the others in their initial crew. Typical fake news! Once again, putting her big brain to use, Zoey notices that some graffiti on the walls points to a continuation of the game. Some months later, she meets up with Ben. At first he's like "Nah, no way Jose" and then he's like "Errr maybe", and finally he's down with the kids, and willing to check out a new location, a building in downtown Manhattan. When they arrive, they find fresh contracts for a movie sequel, "Escape Room 2", waiting to be signed. Just like the "Final Destination" and the "Saw" franchises, this one can keep running for as long as they can think up CGI escape rooms.

Critical Response

The film scored slightly better than "meh" on most film score metrics. Rotten Tomatoes has it with a 50% rating from around 155 reviews. The general consensus being, "Escape Room fails to unlock much of the potential in its premise, but what's left is still tense and thrilling enough to offer a passing diversion for suspense fans." Screen Rant gives it a paltry 2.5 outta 5, with Sandy Schaelfer saying, "Escape Room is an entertainingly cheesy and surprisingly innovative B-movie, but suffers when it turns its attention to setting up future sequels." Going over to Metacritic we find a score of 48/100. And finally CinimaScore gives it a "B".
 

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