- Katherine McLaughlin
- 28 January 2019
Deadly puzzles are the focus of this unashamedly derivative but entertainingly tense horror
The mythologies of modern horror classics such as Saw, The Cabin in the Woods and Final Destination are merged to create an entertainingly tense experience where six strangers make their way through a maze of deadly puzzles. Escape Room feeds not only on the contestants' specific anxieties but taps into many common phobias, such as fear of heights. It's also ridiculously silly, especially in its conclusion, as it makes its pitch for horror franchise success, offering its viewers an idiotic anagram in a 'shock' twist that you'll probably guess at the outset.
In the tradition of decent early 00s horror, director Adam Robitel gathers together a cast of familiar, not too famous faces to play the game: Love, Simon's Logan Miller plays a grieving, alcoholic stock-room worker; Jay Ellis from Insecure, an arrogant city boy; Tyler Labine from Tucker and Dale vs Evil, a goodhearted retired miner; True Blood's Deborah Ann Woll, a troubled ex-soldier; Nik Dodani from Atypical, a seasoned gamer geek; and Lost in Space's Taylor Russell, a physics student who is still trying to find her voice. Each actor plays to their strengths and, as the film continues and the participants' nerves are tested, they convincingly amp up their tormented states.
Each set-piece is pleasingly put together with its own specific soundtrack, and the film leans into the surreal with a slowed-down Petula Clark tune and a sped-up heavy metal number. There's also an unsubtle reminder of how the rich pull the strings in society, which would have been better left out to focus more on the panic. Your enjoyment will depend on how fast you work out the puzzles; if it's quicker than the characters get their brains into gear, your patience may be tested.
General release from Fri 1 Feb.