Escape Room is the new horror-thriller directed by Adam Robitel (X-Men), and it’s story follows a similar path to the likes of Saw and The Cube. A group of strangers from different walks of life are invited to a deserted old building to solve a series of puzzles for a $10,000 prize, but what begins as harmless fun swiftly turns into an elaborate trap and a callous game of life and death.
The game is simple: find clues to solve the puzzle within a set-time and then proceed to the next room. Sadly, for these unfortunate souls, the puzzles are death traps, hell-bent on bringing their deepest fears to life. The group face several destructive terrains: a plush waiting room turned make-shift oven threatening to burn everyone alive, a scenic winter wonderland that drops to freezing temperatures, and an upside-down bar, with floors that cave in to reveal a dark abyss … If only Robitel channelled some of this creative energy elsewhere.
The detail and creativity of the sets is astonishing—thanks to production designer Edward Thomas (Doctor Who)—however, they’re just about the only interesting part of the whole film. At times it feels like all efforts were placed solely on these contraptions, with no time put into developing nuanced characters. This is one of the biggest let-downs of the film, as none of the characters are interesting enough for us to care about. Each character brings a dark history which links them all together, but we’re only given insight through short flashbacks, and a cringe-worthy confession scene in which they each divulge their hidden truths. While some of the characters—like Amanda (a war veteran) and Ben (who killed his friends in a drink-driving accident)—have harrowing life experiences, the film fails to present the gravitas of these unique experiences. Instead, they each remain painfully surface level throughout the duration of the film. The dialogue is so hurried and inorganic that, as each character is gradually picked off it’s difficult to care, quite frankly.
The only saving grace—set designs aside—is Zoey (Taylor Russell), a shy but bright university student, who is strong and sympathetic in her portrayal, proving herself to be the only character the audience can cheer on. In contrast, there’s nothing of substance to the leading man, Ben (Logan Miller), which is a shame because his back story is by far the most polarising. Instead, he’s reduced to a boring cliché—a chain-smoking rebel (yawn).
Escape Room promises to be a mind-bending thriller about an immersive experience gone wrong, but really, it’s all a bit meh. Though it delivers some suspenseful moments, it’s a bit lacklustre. Saw may be classified as “torture-porn”, but at least it had edge. Escape Room isn’t a total snooze-fest, but it is duller in comparison to its predecessors. I’m a delicate flower, yet even I didn’t find it as horrifying as the trailer would have me believe. If you’re keen for a light thriller devoid of jump-scares and human emotion, Escape Room is now showing at a cinema near you.