Escape Room: Not for serious problem solvers

Review: PG reworking of ‘Saw’ – minus the torture porn and inventiveness – is silly fun

Zoey (Taylor Russell) in Escape Room

Film Title: Escape Room

Director: Adam Robitel

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

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 100 min

Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 05:00

   

There was a degree of nervousness about Escape Room’s European release, particularly in Poland where Adam Robitel’s follow-up to Insidious: The Last Key, was scheduled to open in the weeks after five teenage girls died in an escape room in the northern city of Koszalin.

In fact, any similarities between the plot and the past-voguish titular attractions begin and end with the name. Experienced problem solvers and puzzle fans are sure to groan when a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a clue in a room booby-trapped to turn into a furnace.

This year’s stateside new year horror hit – $76 million and counting – is, in fact, a high concept PG reworking of Saw, minus the torture porn and inventiveness. What’s left, you say? A reasonably diverting genre exercise that shares DNA with every second contemporary horror by its apparent mania for bumping off attractive young folk in a series of hostile environments. Escape the escape rooms – plural – or die trying.

Mismatched bunch

As ever, the key players are a mismatched bunch brought together when they each respond to a mysterious black box invitation that leads them to an anonymous Chicago office block. Here, painfully shy maths whiz Zoey (Taylor Russell), a stockroom boy with limited prospects (Logan Miller), a generally badass war veteran with PTSD symptoms (Deborah Ann Woll), a high-flying money man (Jay Ellis), an older former miner (Tyler Labine) and an escape room nerd (Nik Dodani), must join forces or possibly throw one another under a bus, if they are to survive the fiendish intricacies of each deathtrap.

We say fiendish but there’s a touch of Goldilocks about the variables. One escape room is too hot, another is too cold, another is too poisonous. It’s all decent, silly fun until a final section attempts to expand the universe in order to accommodate a pointless backstory and pave the way for a possible sequel or 10. With that hefty box office tally, they weren’t wrong, just clumsy in the attempt.