Blu-ray Review: Escape Room

With the popularity of escape rooms still on the rise, the notion of a horror film based on the idea of a group being stuck in one and having to escape or die trying was inevitable. There have been films in the past that have had similar concepts, however this is one of the first to do it in the escape room setting, with everyone having to work together to solve puzzles as they move from room to room while trying to survive. There were a few routes that Escape Room could’ve gone in terms of what type of horror movie it would be and it ended up going the Final Destination meets Saw (without the massive amounts of gore) route, which is to say that it’s both hugely intense at times while also being completely ridiculous at others.

Okay, ridiculous may be the wrong word, but it’s not far off. With Final Destination you have this world where death is out to get this group of survivors and if it misses its attempt at killing them again it then has to wait until it has gone through everyone else before it can try and kill the person it missed again. It’s ridiculous when you write it out or think about it trying to find logic in it all; however, if you just immerse yourself in that world and play by those rules as you watch, then Final Destination is thoroughly entertaining. The same rules apply to Escape Room.

The movie introduces us to a few characters early on: Zoey Davis (Taylor Russell), Ben Miller (Logan Miller) and Jason Walker (Jay Ellis.) Each of these characters receive a puzzle box from someone they know and trust, and inside of it is an invitation to take part in an ultimate escape room that nobody has ever completed before, and if you succeed you’ll receive $10,000. Each of the above show up at the address given for their own reasons, and there they meet up with Amanda Harper (Deborah Ann Woll), Mike Nolan (Tyler Labine) and Danny Khan (Nik Dodani,) three other strangers that have also been invited to take part in the game.

It doesn’t take long for everyone to realize that the game they’ve been invited to take part in has also become a fight for their lives, as the waiting room reveals itself to be a giant oven with no noticeable exit. As the room begins to get unbearably hot the strangers must band together to find the clues within the room in order to escape to the next area or be cooked alive.

That’s the gist of the movie in general as the group moves from room to room trying to figure out who’s behind it all, while also finding out more about one another and what the reasons may be for why it is they were chosen to play this game to begin with. What works best about the film is just how fantastic each of these rooms are in the movie. Each one is so drastically different from the last, yet they all have an intensely claustrophobic atmosphere to them that just amps the horror level up a notch or two so very well.

The film is directed by Adam Robitel, and he and his creative team clearly knew that the rooms themselves were as much a character in the movie as the actors trying to find their way out of them. By recognizing this it really makes each section of the storytelling process that much more intriguing, as we as viewers are trying to solve the puzzle of these strangers all while being immensely entertained by the insanity that these horrific rooms deliver.

Even if you’ve never participated in an escape room I’m sure most people know the idea that a clock is ticking down and you have to find clues in the objects around you to try and get out before the clock reaches zero. I’ve only ever done one and while it was a lot of fun, I was pretty terrible at it. I’m sure the more of them you do then the more you’re able to start finding patterns in where clues may be, but I’m also pretty positive that we can all agree that if we had to figure out the combination to a lock on a door while suffering from the early stages of hypothermia or the threat of being burned alive if you don’t succeed, well, it’d probably be a tad more stressful.

The pacing of the film is also incredibly well handled, as there’s never a lot of downtime in any of the rooms. The characters enter, try and figure out what bad thing will happen if they don’t get out and then do what they can to get out before said bad thing happens. That’s pretty much the case for each of the rooms, but it never comes off as redundant as again, the production design team just did a superb job making these rooms feel incredibly unique even if the end goal of each one is the same.

It also helps that the acting in the film is really strong, with everyone giving the movie their all, taking it incredibly seriously even when it is more of a popcorn horror flick. That’s what helps Escape Room remain engaging, as you want to learn more about these characters. While the rooms themselves are amazing, if everyone inside of them had no personality or acted like they were in a B-movie then no amount of production value can make up for that. Luckily that’s not the case, as everyone feels like a real person, delivering their lines more or less how a group of strangers would in this type of situation and actually giving a damn about how the final product will end up.

As mentioned above, Escape Room does require a suspension of disbelief in order to be fully enjoyed, as if you really sit down and start picking it apart you’ll take all the fun out of it. That’s not to make excuses for poor storytelling, as it’d be easy enough to just rip into it from a logistical standpoint and rant away for pages; however, when a movie does everything else so well it makes you want to just sit back and enjoy the ride for what it is, and in the case of Escape Room, that’s a damn good time.

The movie looks fantastic on Blu-ray, really giving off the proper atmosphere that each room requires to fully immerse the viewer within it. The visuals are crisp and clean, as is the audio mix, which blasts intensely in surround sound as the tension builds throughout the movie. The dialogue never battles to be heard though, coming through clearly at all times, again, allowing the viewer to just enjoy the film and not be futzing with volume or being distracted by poor video transfers.

Special Features:

8 Deleted & Extended Scenes (Including an Alternate Ending) – So the alternate ending is all I really cared about here, as those can sometimes be better than the ending chosen in the film. From the names of the deleted and extended scenes they more or less would’ve just taken away from the pacing of the film, as everything came across clearly without them and were likely originally filmed in case extra spoon-feeding of the plot to the audience seemed necessary. Anyway, the alternate ending wasn’t better or worse than the ending the film actually had…it’s definitely smaller in scale, so with what they’re going for it kind of makes sense to go the route they did. Go big or go home!

Game, Sets, Match: How the Rooms Were Created – This featurette is about five minutes in length and focuses on each of the rooms, why they were designed the way they were and just how much work went into them. The cast and crew are the ones talking about each, and honestly, I think this could’ve been a much more in-depth feature on the disc, easily being able to handle another 15-minutes or so on the topic and really delving into the mechanics of it all.

The Lone Survivors – This feature is just over four minutes in length and briefly touches on the characters in the movie and the actors playing them. Nothing of any real substance here, but worth the quick watch if you’re a fan of the film.

There’s also what seems to be promotional material where the cast is asked if they’d ever do an escape room after being in the movie.

Sony Pictures Presents Venom. Directed by: Adam Robitel. Written by: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik. Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen. Running time: 99 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Apr. 23, 2019.

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