Escape Room (2019) (a film review by Frank Ochieng)

The formulaic frightener ‘Escape Room’ is certainly not worth entering for its cheap, collapsed creepiness. This half-baked horror sideshow will make its audience feel trapped inside this low-budget toothless thriller that is about as riveting as its generic movie title.  This is a by-the-numbers banal boofest that is short on imagination but long on cutthroat contrivances. Whatever sub-genre that ‘Escape Room’ tries with its attempt at shadowy shenanigans quickly shapes up as a transparent goosebump tease saddled in lightweight duress. Dismissive and exhaustingly familiar, ‘Escape Room’ simply goes through the telegraphed macabre motions.

Director Adam Robitel (‘Insidious: The Last Key’) and screenwriters Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik clunk together a sketchy pick ’em off plotline involving an insidious building and the group of clueless cast-offs waiting to become inevitable prey of the devious and demonic practices of terror that gruesomely awaits them.  The shadings of nihilistic naughtiness in ‘Escape Room’ easy is reminiscent of the ‘Saw’ film franchise and other gamey-related gore vehicles where finding clues and escaping deadly spaces against limited time is the given theme of such morbid madness. However, the problem with ‘Escape Room’ is that its tepid titillation just does not register while coming off as a blistering bore.

The set-up is typical as a bunch of sitting ducks await their furious fate to become predictable prey at the hands of outlandish, frightening foreplay. The premise features six strangers entering a $10,000 grand prize challenge to solve puzzles within the various escape rooms inside a mysterious building. As one can imagine there is an assortment of stock characters ready to meet their maker, at least the expendable ones that compare insignificant to the notable personalities that the film bothers giving to them somewhat of a notable backstory. One thing is definitely clear…the vibrant, exotic-looking set pieces that masquerade as the dubious escape rooms have more depth and meaning than the plagued participants trying to escape their cautionary walls.

Among the escape room challengers in this captivity creeper include sheepish college student Zoey (Taylor Russell), a grunge-looking retailer Ben (Logan Miller) and confident financial whiz Jason (Jay Ellis). Together, this band of opportunists must travel to the different rooms while figuring out the perplexing puzzles not to mention side-stepping the so-called sophisticated traps. As the grimy game moves forward, each puzzle and room proves to be toxic for the jeopardised player. One by one, an individual is wiped out until the few remain after the slaughter materialises.

There is nothing remotely puzzling or probing behind the closed doors of ESCAPE ROOM

No doubt that ‘Escape Room’ has its moments courtesy of the production pizzazz that undeniably looks inventive. However, the proceedings taking place is nothing more than meandering nonsense behind the synthetic sensationalism. As mentioned earlier, ‘Escape Room’ is nothing more than a retread of previous chilly blueprints such as the aforementioned ‘Saw’, ‘Cube’ and other frenzied fodder requiring trapped souls trying to outwit their way out of dire boundaries that dangerously bind. There seems to be nothing more inviting beyond the recycled gimmick of paper-thin puppets facing horrific eradication. After awhile, the concept of the puzzle-solving premise takes a backseat to the other distractions later in the film that feel like miscellaneous filler. The hollow habitats’ last breath are uneventful because half the characterisations feel like disposable pawns making room for the top tier targets that bring no curiosity to the tortured table.

Generic and diverting in drippy dramatics, ‘Escape Room'” is not remotely puzzling or probing behind its closed doors.

Escape Room

Columbia Pictures

1 hr. 40 mins.

Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani and Tyler Labine

Directed by: Adam Robitel

Written by: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik

Rated: PG-13

Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng (2019)



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