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Horror and suspense flicks are often hit or miss. Since the ‘50s, it has proven a challenge to create a truly scary movie without sacrificing the integrity of the plotline. Films like “The Exorcist” and “The Shining” have withstood the test of time because they bridged the gap between being classically scary and having dynamic execution.
“Escape Room,” directed by seasoned horror filmmaker Adam Robitel, made its debut last Friday, Jan. 4. The film hits on some really integral aspects of how strangers relate to each other when in a life or death situation. Some moments in the film are relatable due to a handful of captivating performances from a select few actors, yet there are still many scenes and lines that fall short of their intention.
These shortcomings can be attributed primarily to the writing and scenarios presented. It was obvious that this film was scripted, and it often felt like many of the actors were simply delivering their lines to get it over with. If the actors want the audience to be immersed in the plot, they can’t let them know that it’s just a story.
That’s not to say “Escape Room” wasn’t enjoyable. In fact it was one of the more original and untapped ideas in the suspense genre. It has the ability to ruin escape rooms for everyone.
Conceptually, “Escape Room” nestles itself in the same subgenre of horror as the “Saw” franchise, where there are a number of contestants competing for survival against a common evil. The characters in “Escape Room,” with interesting backgrounds and complementary characteristics, are led unsuspectingly into a series of chambers each themed and rigged to create a life-or-death situation. The team is pitted against freezing cold, searing heat and poisonous gas amongst other intricate plots to kill them, and along the way the contestants are taken down one by one.
The film makes a fantastic first impression in a scene without context which delivers arguably the best example of the knee-grabbing, toe-flinching terror present in the entire movie. The centerpiece character, Ben, portrayed by Logan Miller, scrambles to find the clues necessary to make his way out of a study which is quickly collapsing in on itself in classic “Star Wars”-garbage-compactor fashion.
Miller has plenty of experience acting in roles where the characters are placed in odd situations (“The Stanford Prison Experiment,” “Love Simon”). The lovably sarcastic yet sad stoner archetype, which comes so naturally to Miller, provides comic relief and a breath of fresh air.
There are plenty of wonderfully trite movie cliches scattered throughout the film. When Zoey, played by Taylor Russell, is introduced, she is attending an incredibly complicated physics lecture where an unnecessarily attractive professor asks the class an impossible question and Zoey is the only one who knows the answer. Five minutes after starting the topic, the bell rings. Sounds like something you might see in an ‘80s B horror flick like “C.H.U.D.”
The final half hour of the flick is a dizzying maze of plot twists. From the moment it’s apparent what the reason behind the murderous madness is, the audience is left confused and bewildered as every three minutes holds a turn of events that drastically changes the plot. If you blink, you’ll miss something.
“Escape Room” serves its intended purpose. It’s an engaging and unpredictable suspense film with playful twists at the end and fun, thought-provoking themes. It may not be relevant in fifty years like “Carrie” or “Psycho,” but it certainly has the nerve to give you a flinch or two.
The start of a new year is always promising, but when it comes to new movie releases, the year rarely gets off to a promising start.
The January box office notoriously sustains itself on holiday leftovers and awards-season darlings expanding into wider release. I suppose it’s understandable that nothing wants to open at a time when the kids are going back to school, adults are getting back to work, and people don’t want to leave their houses because it’s so darn cold.
Studios tend to use this time to unload movies that they want to release at some point, but not against any serious competition. “Escape Room” fits the bill nicely.