A premise about a few strangers trapped inside a space desperately looking for a way out is nothing new. We have already seen this in movies like Cube (1997), Panic Room (2002) and Saw (2004). And yet, they are fun to watch. Which brings us Escape Room, a new movie from the director of The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) and last year’s Insidious: The Last Key.
The setup, in the meantime, is intriguing enough from the get-go: Six strangers (Taylor Russell’s Zoey, Logan Miller’s Ben, Jay Ellis’ Jason, Tyler Labine’s Mike, Deborah Ann Woll’s Amanda and Nik Dodani’s Danny) are secretly invited to participate in an escape room challenge that will win them a cool US$10,000. Once they gather in a mysterious location, they soon find themselves battling in a deadly game of survival while attempting to escape in a series of booby-trapped rooms.
Escape Room particularly benefits from its reasonably pacey 100-minute running time, coupled with Adam Robitel’s equally efficient direction in establishing each of the six characters without bogging the momentum. For a movie like this, I would normally expect cookie-cutter caricatures. But I’m surprised that all six actors are good enough for their respective roles, with Taylor Russell and Deborah Ann Woll particularly impresses me the most.
It also helps that the various escape room scenes are both thrilling and suspenseful (the one where they stuck inside an upside-down bar room is especially noteworthy). And despite its otherwise tame PG-13 rating, Robitel still manages to keep things compelling enough without the needs of excessive blood, gore and violence.
Too bad the movie doesn’t hold the same promise, especially once the third act subsequently unfolds with an elaborate twist that feels overly convoluted for its own good. Still, Escape Room remains a surprisingly effective thriller worth watching in the cinema.