Movie review: Stakes turn deadly in Chicago-set horror film 'Escape Room'

  • College student Zoey (Taylor Russell) tries to solve a clue in "Escape Room."

    College student Zoey (Taylor Russell) tries to solve a clue in "Escape Room." Courtesy of Sony Pictures

 
By Lindsey Bahr
Associated Press
Updated 1/4/2019 11:35 AM

"Escape Room" -- ★ ★

In retrospect, it's actually kind of surprising that there hasn't been an escape room-themed horror movie until now. The popular interactive mystery games are kind of mini films, with sets, opportunities for conflict and more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So, from the imaginations of producer Neal H. Moritz and director Adam Robitel comes "Escape Room," where the characters are as random as an audience-chosen improv group and the stakes are $10,000 or death.

"Escape Room" starts at the end, as a lone man, Ben (Logan Miller), desperately tries to figure out the clues in a room that is quickly closing in on itself, "Star Wars" trash-compactor-style. It's a jolt of energy up front, but right as things are looking really bleak for Ben, the film cuts to "three days earlier." It's cheap and a little insulting to have to reassure the audience that there is some exciting and harrowing stuff to come as long as they get through all the boring introductory stuff.

Chicago strangers competing for $10,000 get more than they bargained for in "Escape Room."
Chicago strangers competing for $10,000 get more than they bargained for in "Escape Room." - Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The thing is, "Escape Room" isn't all that bad, just silly, but it takes a moment to readjust your expectations after that condescending beginning, and a phoned-in introduction to the unlucky six Chicago strangers who all receive a mysterious box and decide to check out this escape room. There's the skittish but brilliant college student Zoey (Taylor Russell), the ruthless finance guy Jason (Jay Ellis), the veteran Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), the regular joe Mike (Tyler Labine) and the escape room obsessive Danny (Nik Dodani).

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Curiously no one seems all that concerned about the odd premise that this team activity could have a single winner, or perhaps they think they'll all win $10,000. I guess it becomes clearer when people start dying in the rooms.

And, boy, are they put through the wringer. They have to brave extreme heat, extreme cold, poison, drugs, rising tensions and body counts while trying to figure out how to get out of each puzzle room, a few of which are pretty interesting. Mercifully, all the carnage is kept to tolerable PG-13 levels.

The movie, however, essentially ends with a shrug and the possibility for a sequel. Still, you could do worse in January.

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Starring: Logan Miller, Taylor Russell, Jay Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Nik Dodani

Directed by: Adam Robitel

Other: A Sony Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive material and language. 100 minutes

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