Escape: Puzzle of Fear (2020) – Movie Review

Would You Like To Play A Game?

Escape: Puzzle Of Fear is both an unintentionally hilarious and bizarrely sexed up horror/thriller. It’s a film that brings together various puzzle pieces from other movies and crams them together into one escape-room-inspired picture. Horror is really quite a stretch though, as despite this movie being tailored toward horror fans there really isn’t anything all that scary about this film. Unless you count some of the acting.

The movie itself opens with an intriguing shot of a group of people scrambling around an escape room. As ominous music picks up, the group finally manage to make it outside but something is clearly very wrong with this set-up.

From here we then skip forward to meet our group of horny characters whom we follow across the movie. Matthew is the conventional bad boy, complete with long flowing hair, bushy beard and suitably cold indifference toward girlfriend Brittany. Joining them for the weekend are Matthew’s best friend Tyler and his girlfriend Angie.

After plenty of sexual tension and bedroom antics between the couples (honestly, at times I thought I stumbled upon the wrong sort of film here), the group discuss a scary escape room that’s “like Saw only way scarier.” Deciding to give it a try, they head up and prepare themselves for the worst.

While this sounds like a mild synopsis for the first 10 minutes, the opening act of the movie takes up an overly generous 40 minutes of screen-time. There’s some flashbacks here, along with cutaways to the escape room employees for good measure. One 10 second shot of Sam and Tabitha drinking coffee is one of the funniest moments in the whole movie. They’re so incredibly awkward together and their lines of dialogue are tonally all over the place. But it’s hilarious to watch and plays up the campiness of the movie that this most definitely was not trying to be.

Everything goes completely off the rails near the end though and annoyingly there isn’t so much of an actual escape room at work here. Instead, this plays out closer to a trip down memory lane. Unlike last year’s Escape Room (which this movie seems to have copied the poster for) there’s a profound lack of traps, violence or gore for our unsuspecting characters.

Instead, the movie proudly rips off other films including The Usual Suspects, Urban Legend and Saw. I actually wish the movie was labelled as a comedy as parading this as a parodical thriller may have given it some real brownie points and propped up the score. The dialogue is so tonally out of sync with what’s going on that I found myself having a great time incredulously laughing along to this one. That, in fact, is actually the biggest compliment I can give this film.

Despite all the problems I have with this, I actually enjoyed my time with it. There’s some really funny lines of dialogue, incredibly awkward confrontations between characters and a semi-decent twist that’s ruined slightly by a constant repetition of what we’ve just seen. The movie does have numerous problems both structurally and tonally, making it unlikely to be one you’ll return to in a hurry – if at all.

If you’re in the mood for a campy, cheesy horror without the horror and a whole lot of sexual tension, this may just be the film for you.


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