Thriller Starts Promisingly Before It Crashes and Burns
Six people find themselves trapped in a room that is a lethal puzzle. They must devise a way out before they are killed or maimed. The nefarious mastermind pulling the strings knows all of their secret sins and exploits them to maximum effect. Alright, enough about the entire Saw film franchise. I’m supposed to review the new thriller Escape Room which is about six people who find themselves trapped in a room that’s a lethal puzzle … er, you get the idea.
It’s almost a contractual obligation that film critics point out each year that January and February are an annual cinematic dumping ground for sub-par films with low expectations from the studios that backed them. These winter months are the movie-going equivalent of Charlie Brown charging at the football. Every now and then you get a John Wick: Chapter 2. But most of the time, you go flying through the air and land on your back with a thud. And such is unfortunately the case with Escape Room, the new film from Adam Robitel, the director of Insidious: The Last Key and the writer of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
The film begins promisingly enough. The premise is intriguing, and the cast has some on-screen chemistry. The first full-blown escape challenge is cleverly staged and generates some suspense. But as our cast goes from escape scenario to escape scenario, getting picked off one by one, the film loses momentum. By its midpoint Escape Room needs another plot twist or two. It needs to find another gear, but it never does.
Unlike the first Saw film, Escape Room lacks any kind of big hook or twist at its conclusion. Every film involving an evil conspiracy or a diabolical mastermind waiting in the wings builds to one big question: Why? For Escape Room, the answer to that question is generic at best.
Plausibility is not a requirement. Originality is. David Fincher’s The Game, for example, is ludicrous at its core, but he sells the concept through the brilliance of its execution and the balls-to-the-wall bravado of its ending. Escape Room, unfortunately, staggers to a silly denouement and then has the audacity to lay the groundwork for a sequel.
Escape Room is a film made for movie-goers who subscribe to services like AMC’s A-List or Movie Pass. It doesn’t technically cost you anything to roll the dice and give it a try. But when you consider all of the content available on streaming services and rental platforms, movie-going has become less about financial investment and more about time expenditure. There’s so much quality content out there and so little spare time to enjoy it. Escape Room made me wish I had stayed home and taken a nap instead.