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Blu-ray Review: Escape Room

May 7, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Six complete strangers find themselves locked up together in a mysterious concrete office tower and have to find their way out of a series of increasingly elaborate rooms in the aptly titled Escape Room.

The latest thriller from Insidious: The Last Key director Adam Robitel, the film is inspired by the escape room trend of a few years ago, and could be best described as something akin to Saw meets Final Destination. For the most part, it’s actually pretty fun.

The players are Ben Miller (Logan Miller), who works in the stockroom of a grocery store; university student and physics genius Zoey Davis (Taylor Russell); wealthy trader Jason Walker (Jay Ellis); working class trucker Mike Nolan (Tyler Sean Labine); Iraq War veteran Amanda Harper (Deborah Ann Woll); and video game nerd Danny Khan (Nik Dodani). They each receive a black puzzle box inviting them to compete, with the promise of ten thousand dollars for the winner.

Each of the rooms puts them in a different life-threatening scenario, which range from extreme heat to extreme cold, and it’s only by deciphering the obscure riddles and clues hidden throughout that they can unlock the doors and move on to the next level. The rooms are designed so that not every player will survive each subsequent level. They also each feature something from their past, meaning that whoever designed this twisted game knew the players really well, and it wasn’t an accident that these six random people were chosen to compete against each other.

The film essentially unfolds through a series of sequences, with each of the rooms providing its own contained set-piece, and this means that the stakes are constantly being raised and changed throughout the running time. There is a fair bit of suspense as the characters struggle to make it out of these various manufactured scenarios alive and advance to the next level. The film also boasts impressive production design, with each of the rooms being quite different and visually distinct in their own ways. This includes an upside down billiards bar complete with a pool table hanging above their heads, and sections of the floor (ceiling) that keep dropping out from beneath them, in one of the film’s most inventive examples of its imaginative staging and eye-popping set design.

Not all of this makes sense, and there is a bit of a backstory involving an evil mastermind named WooTan Yu (Yorick van Wageningen) that isn’t overly developed, but if you just go along for the ride that Escape Room offers, it’s actually a pretty good time. Yes, the film sometimes defies logic, and the ending is also somewhat frustrating in how it leaves room for a sequel, which will almost certainly have diminishing returns. But for the most part, this is a crafty and surprisingly fun little puzzle box of a movie, and I found it fairly entertaining to watch.

The Blu-ray also includes the two featurettes Game, Sets, Match, which offers a closer look at the film’s aforementioned production design, and The Lone Survivors, which focuses on the stunts in the film, as well as nearly twenty minutes of deleted scenes. There’s also two very short pieces entitled Will You Ever Part 1 and Will You Ever Part 2, which feature the director and members of the cast talking about their real life experiences with escape rooms.

Escape Room is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 99 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: April 23rd, 2019

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