Happy New Year, everyone! Hope everyone had a great time and stayed safe out there and geared up to not commit to their new years resolutions. Or am I just talking about me?
Anyway, lets get this party started with a killer escape room. Literally. That’s what this movie looks like it is. An escape room, but the traps are real, and they all seem to be related to each other somehow. Not by family, but by circumstance.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Taylor Russell (BEFORE I FALL , and the upcoming WAVES ), Deborah Ann Woll (DAREDEVIL [2015 – 2018]), Tyler Labine (SUPER TROOPERS 2  and TUCKER AND DALE ), Logan Miller (LOVE SIMON  and DOG’S PURPOSE ), and Nik Dodani (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Directing we have Adam Robatel, known for INSIDIOUS 4 (2018). Co-writing the screenplay are Bragi F. Schut (SEASON OF THE WITCH ) and Maria Melnik (feature film debut; congrats, miss). Co-composing the score are John Carey (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of) and Brian Tyler (CRASY/ASIANS , POWER RANGERS , SEE ME 2 , and upcoming films WHAT MEN WANT  and FIVE FEET APART ). The cinematographer is Marc Spicer, known for LIGHTS OUT (2016), FURIOUS 7 (2015), and the upcoming THE WHISTLEBLOWER (2019). Finally, the editor is Steve Mirkovich, known for RINGS (2017), HARDCORE HENRY (2016), and CON AIR (1997).
Overall, this movie looks like it could be fun. Wait, let me check the rating. “PG-13.” Nope! This movie is going to blow chunks. But hey, I think I’ll enjoy this movie fine what with Woll and Labine attached. But definitely calling it, this is the first bad movie of the year.
This is my honest opinion of: ESCAPE ROOM
The story follows a group of seven strangers with mysterious pasts who have been invited to partake in playing in an escape room challenge. However, upon arriving in the waiting room, they soon discover that the room is actually the escape room and frantically figure out how to escape. Though they do, they only find themselves in another, completely different escape room with life-threatening challenges.
Well, this sure is better than I originally thought, but… nah, I’m still not really calling this a good movie. Mostly because it’s not.
I will give the movie credit. The actors are pretty good, and the characters are surprisingly compelling. Okay, no one’s got a whole lot of depth to them, but for two-dimensional characters, there is surprising empathy for them. Standouts include, of course, Woll and Labine, simply for the fact that I recognize them from DAREDEVIL and TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL, respectively, but they do actually churn out some good performances. Woll plays Amanda, a former soldier. She and Zoey (Taylor Russell) share a particularly close bond as the story progresses. Labine plays Mike, who’s this lovable, yet talkative dude who’s just trying to have fun. He never seems to be phased by anyone chastising him and he never stops trying to help the group. Russell was adorable as the overly quiet and shy girl, but has a pretty bad-ass arc by the end of the flick. Even Ben (Logan Miller), whom I didn’t care much for at the beginning, started to grow on me as the story progressed as well. He’s basically an asshole, but he does seem to develop a good head on his shoulder and learns sympathy.
I also admit that the death rooms are pretty fun set-ups. I like how the first room is just one giant oven and everything from the ceiling, to the walls, to the pillars, they all have heating coils in them that light up. That was cool. Or the frozen tundra room has stuffed polar bears, reindeer, among many other things that made for fun stuff. I won’t give everything away, but each room is unique and different traps, all culminating into pretty cool scenes.
But let’s get to the negatives, of which there are plenty of.
Much as I enjoyed most of the characters, the only one that truly got under my skin was Danny (Nik Dodani), who is the group’s escape room expert who’s done, like, a hundred. He’s just a nerd stereotype who doesn’t shut the hell up and seems to take a nauseating amount of pride in what he’s done. To make matters worse, he’s the only one who constantly believes that the traps are fake and that everything is just amped up to an extreme, but non-lethal level, whereas everyone else sees the truth. Spoiler alert, he’s the first to die. Thank Christ, if you ask me. That’s my only non-warning of spoilers, I promise, but I really hated that character. Everyone else was fine.
And as if it’s going out of style, there’s a whole lot of dumb. In the first room, someone points out that the door handle-turned-oven dial is, in fact, an oven dial… and then Zoey discovers a clue in the form of the book, Fahrenheit 451, and turns the dial to that number. Are you f**king kidding me?! Even should you wanted to overlook the idea that turning the oven dial to 451 degrees would trigger the room’s heaters, which no one would fall for no matter if it’s all fake or not, one would likely just hold on to the clue and try to find other clues that may say, “hey, don’t fall for this shit!” I mean, Jesus, I know the movie hasn’t established that it’s all real yet, but… seriously, no. No one would jump at the opportunity to just turn the oven dial to 451 degrees without weighing other options. It also doesn’t really end there. Some traps that are seemingly easy to avoid are made much harder than need be, some deaths happen simply because the characters were dumb, or the writers didn’t know how to write them out properly, so it was rushed.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ And the ending is pretty lame. That all of this was done by some super wealthy unknown rich person who has likely never gotten laid is just looking for people with a special trait to throw into these traps. And the Game-master spews out some pretentious bullshit about how we love reality TV and public executions. Who the hell does public executions these days? And who besides the sociopathic likes that kind of shit? It’s just so dumb. And that it sequel-baits is pretty damn presumptuous. I won’t pretend that this movie is all that bad, but to think it’s good enough for a franchise? Meh… I can’t say that I’m totally on board. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, I stand by that this movie is better than I predicted, but that doesn’t really make it good. Surprisingly good characters and sets, but there’s still way too many horror tropes that hold this movie back. I won’t call it a bad movie, but I can’t say that I liked it either. Just Woll and Labine. As a recommendation, sure, you can see it in theaters if you want as a matinee or a discount day. A rental would be the best way to go.
My honest rating for ESCAPE ROOM: 3/5
Next week’s reviews: