Escape Room

 

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The first in a new horror franchise plunders the concept of Saw, albeit with less blood-letting. Fine, if you enjoy watching others play a game in which you have no idea of the rules.

 

Escape Room

 

There are not a lot of laughs in Escape Room, but there’s a good one after the mandatory prologue. In the latter, we see a young man trapped in an old-fashioned games room that is palpably shrinking. This seems a shame, as it’s a beautifully furnished space packed with beguiling bric-a-brac, including a novelty chessboard placed centre stage. But all this is to be smashed to pieces, before the young man finds himself in a space barely large enough to contain David Blaine. Then we cut abruptly to the logo that proclaims ‘An Original Film Production.’ Yeh, right. For anybody who’s seen any episode of the Saw franchise, The Maze Runner, David Fincher’s The Game and in particular the insanely suspenseful Canadian horror film Cube (1997), this is very familiar territory indeed.

 

A group of strangers finds themselves thrown together in a labyrinth of deadly stage sets that only their ingenuity can save them from. Here, six characters handpicked for their diversity end up in the eponymous Escape Room, lured with the promise of $10,000 should they find their way out of the elaborate puzzle. As it happens, the waiting room in which they are seated turns out to be the first of the rooms, which transforms itself into a giant electric bar radiator. But not to worry, these characters are such calculated stereotypes, force-fed such risible dialogue, that we do not care whether they live or die. Each participant is not only chosen for their variety, but for their personality, too. Zoey Davis (Taylor Russell) in the Cluedo equivalent would be ‘Miss Timid’ and we first meet her in a quantum physics class. Here, her professor is banging on about the quantum Zeno effect (aka the Turing paradox), which is a clue to things to come. Indeed, Miss Timid is brilliant at thinking outside the box, which her fellow playmates will later prove grateful for. Then the professor asks his class “has anybody heard of a watched pot that never boils?” Well, if they’re informed enough to know about the quantum Zeno effect, they’ve probably come across an everyday proverb involving a watched pot.

 

Considering the effort extended on the deadly machinations of the Escape Room, it’s a shame that the rest of the movie is so dumb. It is not as gory as Saw, but is nonetheless a deeply unpleasant experience, unless, that is, you cherish watching your protagonists die in inventive ways, however shallow they may be. The concept itself is a real thing, inspired by a video game of the same name, designed to test the resourcefulness of its players, who have to interpret and unravel a series of hints and clues to fathom a secret plot built into the game. The film’s release was actually delayed in Poland, due to the fact that five 15-year-old girls died this month from carbon monoxide poisoning during one such contest. Conseqently, twenty-six Polish escape rooms have been closed down on the grounds of “security flaws.”

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen, Cornelius Geaney Jr, Bart Fouche, Jessica Sutton.

 

Dir Adam Robitel, Pro Neal H. Moritz and Ori Marmur, Screenplay Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik, Ph Marc Spicer, Pro Des Edward Thomas, Ed Steve Mirkovich, Music Brian Tyler and John Carey, Costumes Reza Levy.

 

Columbia Pictures/Original Film-Sony Pictures

99 mins. USA/South Africa. 2019. Rel: 1 February 2019. Cert. 15.