Escape Room – USA, 2019

‘Find the clues or die’

Escape Room is a 2019 American psychological thriller directed by Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key; The Taking of Deborah Logan) from a screenplay by Bragi F. Schut (Season of the Witch) and Maria Melnik.

The movie stars Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, Nik Dodani, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Jessica Sutton, Adam Robitel, Jamie-Lee Money, Kenneth Fok, Vere Tindale, Paul Hampshire, Cornelius Geaney Jr.and Gino Lee.

On its release, Box Office Mojo reported: “Escape Room debuted in second place with an estimated $18 million, well ahead of industry expectations and doubling its reported, $9 million budget. Opening weekend audiences gave the film a “B” CinemaScore, which is a decent score given the genre, while demographics saw audiences split 50/50 male-to-female…” (01/06/19)

A sequel has been already been green-lit by Columbia Pictures, The Hollywood Reporter has reported. Adam Robitel, the director of the first movie, will helm the sequel from a script by Bragi F. Schut. Producer Neal H. Moritz will also return.

Plot details for Escape Room 2 are still under wraps but a release date of April 17, 2020, has already been scheduled.

News of a sequel came as no surprise because Escape Room has taken a huge $118,634,737 worldwide, on a budget of just $9 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

 

In the USA, Escape Room was available digitally on April 9, 2019, followed by a Blu-ray and DVD release on April 23rd. Bonus materials:

  • Alternate Ending
  • Alternate Opening
  • Deleted Scenes:
    • Ben Liquor Store
    • Jason Motorcycle
    • Mirror Flashback
    • Jason Office
    • Technician and Zoey
    • Gaslight
  • Four Featurettes:
    • “Games, Set, Match”
    • “The Lone Survivors”
    • “Would You Ever Part 1 & 2”

Plot:

Six strangers find themselves in circumstances beyond their control and must use their wits to find the clues or die…

Review:

Hollywood, ever bereft of original ideas, now seems to have run out of movie titles as well. For example, the 2019 Shaft is a sequel to the 2000 film Shaft which was a remake of the 1971 Shaft. But it would seem we have now reached the stage where they can’t even be bothered to give this new film either a number or a subtitle.

Similarly there are three films out there with the title Escape Room, all made within the last two years. So, before we get started, let’s get things straight. This is not a review of the 2017 Escape Room starring Sean Young and Skeet Ulrich.

It is also not a review of the 2017 Escape Room currently playing on Netflix which takes ages to get going and limps along pitifully, featuring a young woman trapped in a cage who is naked for no discernible reason other than likely exploitation desperation (and I have to admit it worked as that’s about all I can remember about it).

No, the Escape Room under consideration here is the new film by Adam Robitel, whose pretty decent Insidious: The Last Key. That movie certainly managed a couple of good scares that made me want to check out his next project, which is easily the best of the films with the title Escape Room out there at the moment.

Five strangers are sent posh puzzle boxes that, when solved, lead them to a mysterious tower block with the promise of winning $10,000 if they can survive an escape room game. On arrival they find themselves trapped in the building and having to work their way through a series of potentially lethal puzzles in order to reach the end.

Like last year’s Upgrade or the Final Destination series of films, Escape Room is an undemanding and utterly entertaining piece of low budget horror fun that had me on the edge of my seat for much of the running time and chuckling with glee while I was at it. Influences are brazenly worn on sleeves (I won’t say which as that would spoil things) and Mr Robitel gets top marks for giving the music of Tony Hatch and Petula Clark the horror film home it so very much deserves.

Extras on the UK Sony Blu-ray release are limited to a few tiny (between two and four minutes) featurettes about the production design, the cast and whether or not key personnel have ever been to an escape room. There are also a couple of deleted scenes.

Escape Room is 99 minutes of light, well-intentioned horror fun. Thoroughly recommended as a thriller for an undemanding evening’s entertainment.

John Llewellyn Probert, guest reviewer via House of Mortal Cinema [click link for 100s more horror reviews]

Other reviews [may contain spoilers]:

Escape Room is an entertaining, if somewhat generic endeavor. Boasting solid performances and some beautiful sets, you could do a lot worse at the cinema right now. It’s a fun time-passer. Not great. Not terrible. But a perfectly serviceable way to start off the 2019 film year.” Bloody Disgusting

 

” …rather than throwing up buckets of blood and severed limbs while pushing the boundaries of gore, the filmmakers here are sticking to smartly crafted, multistaged puzzles that usually engage the audience just as much as the survivors scrambling to piece together all of the clues before each doomsday clock runs out.” Flickering Myth

” …there is grisly Alice in Wonderland surrealism […] A very cinematic spatial impossibility is conjured up by Robitel as he allows the audience to ponder how exactly these rooms are supposed to fit together. The film has a vicious streak of throwaway black comedy.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Ultimately, Escape Room reminds us that horror needs formula, but emphasizes that formula is delicate: Tinker with it too much, and the equation goes awry. The film gives its antagonists a face, gives them a motivation right out of Hostel, and indulges in far too much set-up to sustain the mystery that makes Cube so effectively chilling.” Andy Crump, The Hollywood Reporter

“Though it’s refreshing to see a horror/thriller with a black female lead, the film falls into other problematic tropes like killing a person of color first. If there are weaknesses in the first two acts, the outrageous sets and fun cast get you through. But the apparent ending is too similar to recent films like The Belko Experiment and Mayhem to feel anything other than lazy.” IGN

Escape Room is pure, unadulterated fun. As we watch our protagonists unravel the many clues laid out in front of them, you find yourself doing the exact same thing, trying to beat them to the punch but this being a movie, the filmmakers don’t give us enough time, or clues, to decipher them ourselves…” Irish Film Critic

Escape Room may not reinvent the wheel or shock audiences with any major revelation, but it certainly manages to entertain. This is the type of film that works thanks to putting the right parts together. Robitel does a nice job of creating a tense environment, and the script and actors manage to make the insane situation work much better than you’d expect.” JoBlo

“I was hoping that Escape Room would be more unique and not just fall into some tired Hollywood narratives that we’ve seen, but unfortunately it wasn’t able to do that. Escape Room is a short and sweet ride – it’s not amazing or revolutionary – but it was fun…” Punch Drunk Critics

“Given the visual hints and flashbacks scattered through the opening act (not to mention the tell-all trailer), it comes as no surprise that, once again, the protagonists’ current predicament is linked to common past trauma that will be revealed in a crucial turning-point scene. The ultimate endgame behind it is also no surprise…” Rue Morgue

Escape Room is too much fun to completely disregard. A movie about killer escape rooms really has no business being this electrifying. But the climax confounds me, and leaves me feeling ripped-off and even a little angry. Why did it have to end up this way? Why did the movie have to collapse under the weight of its own ambition?” Slash Film

” …it shamelessly sets up a sequel that few are likely to want. Though it has moments of true tension and is entertaining in parts, Escape Room’s poor characters and unintentional comedy ultimately make this an adventure not worth going on.” Starburst

“The first part of the film gets some airy momentum going. Then, however, we learn the secret of what the characters have in common, and it gives you that slightly sinking feeling of one contrivance too many. Who gives a damn if they live or die? Certainly not the movie, and so, following suit, not the audience, either.” Variety

“We asked to sit in this room with 100 minutes of escapism, and Escape Room, in an impressive display of truth in advertising, gives it to us, with a little bit more panache than we were probably expecting. In other words, Adam Robitel’s film makes the most of a bad setup and emerges mostly victorious by the end.” The Wrap

Release:

Escape Room was released by Sony Pictures on January 4, 2019.

Trivia:

Not to be confused with two 2017 movies also titled Escape Room, directed by Will Wernick or directed by Peter Dukes.

Related:

Escape Room – USA, 2017: now with Carnage Count

Escape Room – USA, 2017

No Escape Room – USA, 2018

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