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“Escape Room” is thoroughly a January release

One of my favorite activities is to go with a few friends and do an Escape the Room game. I’ve done them in multiple states across the country, and even done one in Dubai. They’re an absolute blast. So, despite the iffy Trailer and troubling release date, I was looking forward to Escape Room. Maybe it could surprise? I’d even heard a bit of positive buzz. Then, earlier this week…I saw it. Alas. This is a standard issue garbage January release, truly meant to be dumped. In fact, even though it’s early, I wouldn’t be surprised at all for it to end up in 12 months gracing my Bottom Ten list for 2019.

This film is a horror/thriller hybrid that mixes in adventure concepts. A cold open shows us one unlucky individual in Ben (Logan Miller) desperately trying to escape a room with its walls literally closing in. Then, we flash back to see how he and five other individuals wound up in that predicament. It turns out that they’ve all received mysterious invitations to attend a high end Escape Game, one with a cash prize for the winner(s). In addition to the underemployed and slovenly Ben, there’s introverted college student Zoey (Taylor Russell), military veteran Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), high powered financial guru Jason (Jay Ellis), trucker Mike (Tyler Labine), and video game nerd/Escape Game expert Danny (Nik Dodani). They all bristle against each other when introduced, but as their waiting room turns into an oven, they quickly learn that they’ll need to work together not just to win, but to survive. Adam Robitel directs a screenplay by Maria Melnik and Bragi F. Schut, with supporting cast members including Adam Robitel, Yorick van Wageningen, and more. The score comes from John Carey and Brian Tyler, while Marc Spicer handled the cinematography.

I love Escape the Room games. I love a good horror movie. Escape Room is unfortunately a compelling case that the two should never meet. It’s atrocious. I’m literally the target audience for this, and yet, I hated it. Being PG-13 is an issue, sanitizing everything, but it’s hardly the only one. Cliched writing, indifferent direction, and overly broad performances can be genre staples, but they still have to be effectively handled. This fails in all regards. It’s not fun, it’s not interesting, and it’s not scary. The movie is boring and often inept. From the poorly crafted opening scene to the awful ending (more on that next), it consistently takes the path better avoided.

A crappy Cube/Final Destination/Saw knockoff, it falls especially short when considering the ending. In an effort to potentially set the stage for sequels, as well as in an attempt to give the prior 90 minutes or so meaning, the movie opts to do something especially the stupid. The more it tries to expand the world and justify its existence, the worse it gets. The flick had already lost me, but this choice just made it all the worse. Instead of cashing in its chips and going home, Escape Room doubled down. The film just did not know how to quit when it was already behind.

Sigh. Escape Room had potential, at least as a premise. The Cube and Saw franchises have found ways to make this kind of a set up work. However, this new release is wholly unable to follow in their footsteps. The more it tries to, the worse it gets. If this wasn’t early January, it would likely be sent straight to Blu-Ray and DVD, never to be heard from again. Instead, it’s hitting cineplexes and probably will make a couple bucks this week. Don’t be fooled though. It’s completely unworthy of your valuable time and hard earned money. Avoid it at all costs…

Escape Room is in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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