“They’re basically like real life video games”
– Danny Khan

January films are tricky. A lot of people may say January is the month that films go to die, but I argue that sometimes, just sometimes, you can find a film or two released in the first month that’s actually worth watching, and I think Escape Room can ultimately be put into that category. If you’re a fan of the Saw and Cube franchises like I am, you’ll probably love this film too, regardless of the fact that its PG-13 limitation systematically means no gore. It has that same level of intrigue, fascination, and mystery that the aforementioned films contain that just make the movies a fun experience overall.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect film, because you can tell right away that it’s flawed – especially with the acting. The acting in this movie is distractedly bad at times, because these characters have to believably give off the idea that they are actually afraid and are in danger, something that is technically really difficult to do. You gotta remember that these actors are actually safe and in a controlled environment, so to portray the opposite is probably one heck of a challenge. Then again, it is their job to do so. Just know that acting wasn’t exactly a big focus overall. There’s a lot going on in this film that shouldn’t be overlooked. So, let’s take a look at the film as a whole.

Escape Room is a psychological thriller about six strangers who find themselves in circumstances beyond their control and must use their wits to find the clues or die.

Sony Pictures

PEOPLE – 50% (10/20)

Acting – ★☆☆☆ | Characters – ★★★☆ | Casting – ★★☆☆ | Importance – ★★☆☆ | Chemistry – ★★☆☆

Sometimes, I feel like I would be a better horror/thriller writer than most out there right now purely because of my understanding with how important people are for these films. This category is extremely important for any film, sure, but especially horror and thriller, because how else will you CARE about the characters when they ultimately die or are put in immediate danger? Folks over in the movie business focus a lot on the scares or elements of danger, but the people on screen are so throwaway, it’s honestly sad. The acting is the first thing you will notice out of the gate. It’s bad. Really, really bad, specifically when it needs to be good. These characters work well when they’re goofing around or not trying to be scared, but given how this is a horror/thriller film, we need believably scared individuals, which we simply don’t have here. The characters are very, very interchangeable, but they all at least have a purpose for being here that relate to each other – similar to certain films in the Saw franchise, which makes them slightly better than your typical range of characters. The casting is fine, but nobody feels born to play their roles. Importance wise, they’re all fine, but like I said, they are all interchangeable, and the chemistry is fine…but because it’s not exactly a chemistry-centric film, there’s not really much of it to be found overall.

WRITING – 70% (7/10)

Dialogue – ★★ | Balance – ★★ | Story Depth – ☆☆ | Originality – ★☆ | Interesting – ★★

Now, believe it or not, I think the writing in this film was somewhat smart. Even though it is a horror/thriller film, it did at least attempt to come up with a complex story line that is very comparable to the mysteries and riddles you find in real escape rooms – and because there are multiple rooms, it never really stops impressing you in these elements. When it comes to dialogue, you can tell they thought extra hard on making riddles that weren’t impossible to solve, but are still pretty clever – and this is true throughout the film, so dialogue is central to the plot in this way. It’s also a very simple, balanced film where everyone is working together as a group-hero scenario – fighting for the same end goal – to make it out alive. This isn’t a deep or meaningful film by any means necessary. You can grasp at straws all you want and say it’s all about teamwork and working together, but that’s just silly. Originality-wise…I have never really seen an escape room film, and given the popularity of escape rooms recently, it makes sense why it showed up now. It feels like Saw and Cube had a lovechild, but I’m not complaining. And it was absolutely interesting enough for me to watch – and kept my interest throughout the film.

BTS – 80% (8/10)

Visuals – ★★ | Cinematography – ★★ | Editing – ★☆ | Advertising – ★★ | Music & Sound – ★☆

I would say the stuff going on behind-the-scenes wasn’t too bad. The most prominent aspect of what looked so great with this film was the visuals when it came to production design. Production design, at least for me, is when the setting of the film feels like a main character, and the sets of all of these escape rooms are actually really well thought out, especially with the upside-down room. The upside-down room was so, so clever, and the way it was ultimately shot helped the cinematography also stand out as a whole. Editing and Music/Sound were both pretty average and typical, but everything else more or less stood out and impressed me in ways I don’t normally see in similar films.

NARRATIVE ARC – 80% (8/10)

Introduction – ★☆ | Inciting Incident – ★★ | Obstacles – ★★ | Climax – ★★ | Resolution – ★☆

We had a mostly solid narrative structure, except for the introduction. Films like these like to get the ball rolling relatively quickly, so they don’t really take the time to introduce you to the characters…not really. It did a quick introduction of like, half the characters, and that was it…and those introductions weren’t even good enough for their characters. It was really impatient as far as getting things going, but once it starts, it starts. Everything worked out well here. The inciting incident is when the game starts, the crossing off the threshold is when they realize the game is kind of trying to kill them, the obstacles are the rooms in themselves, the climax is a big culmination that the rest of the film is building up to, and these movies don’t really have the best resolutions…that’s part of the point. They don’t ever return to a new sense of norm because that threatens their ability to make a sequel the way they want – and this is a movie that is probably going to be made into at least 5 other movies.

ENTERTAINMENT – 70% (7/10)

Rewatchability -★★ | Fun Experience – ★★ | Impulse to Buy or Own it – ★☆ | Impulse to Talk About or Recommend It – ☆☆ | Riveting – ★★

Before I saw this film, I saw people claiming the movie is a lot of fun, and indeed it is. That’s sort of the whole point. This is the type of film that knows it’s not going to win awards, and never even tries to because it’s too busy trying to have fun – that is where it succeeds. You’ll have a good time with this one, you’ll want to watch it again, and if you’re like me, you wouldn’t mind owning it, either. It’s just a fun time at the movies. Plus, it’s fast enough, and complex enough that you can’t really look away or you’ll miss something substantial, making the film riveting as well.

SPECIALTY – 87.5% (35/40)

  • Escape Rooms – ★★★★★★★★★★
    • As mentioned above, I can’t say I have ever seen a movie focusing on Escape Rooms before. It’s a concept that is done in similar fashions in similar movies, but if you’re as specific as me, I was really happy they made it. When talking about movies featuring escape rooms, you know I’d bring this one up, which is a success for them.
  • Thriller Genre – ★★★★★★★★★★
    • I really only have one prerequisite when watching thrillers, I want to be thrilled. I want my heart pounding watching it. That either means I’m scared for the people, or I just find it that fun. Escape Room is pure fun, and the very first room had my heart pounding, so this gets full points for me, as well.
  • Horror Genre – ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆
    • I almost gave this zero points, and I’ll tell you why – it’s neither gory or scary…which a lot of the times are the foundation of what makes a horror film. But there’s something else. The horror genre is a niche that a lot of people are not only fans of, but they ONLY watch horror. They get their subscription to things like SHUDDER and join Facebook Horror Movie groups, and that’s their life. It took me a long time to understand where these people are coming from, but a lot of it has to do with just dumb fun – which is what this movie is all about. It may not have the gore, it may not have jump scares, it may not have slow-climbing scares, or anything paranormal, but it has that subtle feeling Horror fans love regardless, which means this should at least get half points.
  • Halfway Decent – ★★★★★★★★★★
    • Did they make the film they intended to make from the get-go? Of course they did. If I wanted to make a movie about escape rooms, I doubt I would’ve been able to get anything similar. They did a great job making their vision come to life.

TOTAL SCORE – 75%

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