Welcome To The Panic Room
Despite flaunting a concept that’s been done numerous times before, Escape Room’s ingenious puzzles and tense plot make for a really absorbing watch. Although there’s a cliffhanger ending here used to tease a sequel and some clichéd tropes along the way, Escape Room does well to keep things interesting, picking out the best parts of the Saw franchise and the first Cube film. Armed with some decent special effects and some much-needed back story for our dysfunctional group of characters, Escape Room is one of the better efforts in this genre.
The film begins right in the thick of the action. A weary man drops from the ceiling and ends up in a cluttered room. After pulling a handle, the room begins to shrink as the walls cave in around him. Just as this reaches its climactic point, we jump back in time before the game begins and the ensuing tension. It’s here where we’re introduced to our main character, a shy girl called Zoey. We’re also given a brief background to businessman Jason and fellow student Logan before really sinking our teeth into the meat of the film.
When all these characters, along with a few others, are given a mysterious black box, what follows is a journey into the unknown as they’re whipped up and thrown headfirst into a game of survival. It’s here where the story really takes shape and we get our first glimpse at how these puzzles work. Now, I won’t divulge the solutions or what these rooms include but suffice to say they’re all significantly different and impressively designed. The way these prey on basic human instincts is ultimately what makes the story work as well as it does although a late plot twist does mirror the same character arc seen in Cube. It’s not a deal breaker, especially since Cube is one of my favourite films, but some of the twists and ideas here aren’t wholly original.
Props to the special effects and set design teams here who have really crafted something special. While the first couple of Saw films managed to achieve this feat as well, Escape Room really goes all out to make sure each room is significantly different and aesthetically pleasing. There’s a deliberate use colour here, beginning with red before cooling us down with blue before continuing along the colour wheel to make each room unique and tonally different.
Instead of our characters being led like lambs to the slaughter for our amusement, Escape Room actually takes the time to give our main characters some history and backstory. Zoey’s character journey is the strongest and seeing her grow from a shy, timid student to the strong leader she becomes is definitely the highlight here. Jason’s character twist late on nicely contrasts with Logan who falls somewhere in the middle. Given the way these three characters are mostly focused on, it does feel a little predictable that the rest of the characters may not survive.
The cliffhanger ending and the final 10 minutes being used to flesh out a sequel is a bit of a disappointment. As a standalone title ending on an ambiguous note, Escape Room may have done better but there’s a surprisingly compelling thriller here nonetheless. Between the ingeniously crafted puzzles and the fleshed out characters, Escape Room certainly isn’t as bad as some have made it out to be. It still has its own set of problems of course but this is one of the better films in this genre, one that keeps finding new ways to surprise us.