The production design of Escape Room (2019) is praiseworthy, however its PG-13 rating wastes the film’s premise. In fact, it’s too prim and proper for what a true horror could potentially grasp.
Escape Room (2019) had quite an unfortunate premiere in Poland, back in 2019. Just around the day it hit cinemas, the country was shocked by the news of an actual tragedy that took place in one of such establishments. A teenager was locked from the outside, in a room with no doorknobs, and died in a fire that broke out.
Why begin a review by reminding of this terrible accident? The real event proves the point that this entire lock-me-in fun is dangerous. If you add a paranoid claustrophobia to the equation, you’ll end with a material for a disturbing film. And with the right mind behind it, Escape Room (2019) could become a modern Cube (1997) or any installment of the Saw franchise.
Adam Robitel’s Escape Room (2019) builds on the similar concepts of deadly mazes and labyrinths.
A group of random people receive invitations to a uniquely designed escape room. The prize for the one who solves the puzzles is ten grand in cash. However, just like Pink Floyd sang – united we stand, divided we fall – the game’s based on collaboration. Yet in the case of Robitel’s film, united or divided, most of them falls.
After a series of sloppy character intros, where a nerdy student Zoey leads the pack with the most outrageously artificial one, Robitel cuts the crap and brings the motley crew under one roof. At that point, the fun begins almost instantly. Doors get locked, and fans blowing deadly heat turn on. Panicked and confused, the group of six people begin their fight to survive.
A horror movie with little of… horror
Many horrors operate with disposable protagonists, right? Some of them even made quite a living out of it. The entire franchise of Saw made us watch dozens of forgettable characters suffer and die, but let’s be honest – did anybody root for them? Saw established this ruthless “fodder meat” approach right from the start, albeit this meant only most ardent fanbase endured more than its first two installments.
Robitel, on the other hand, has a difficulty here. The motivations and backstories of his characters are barely there, and some forced twists only worsen things. Despite Robitel’s attempts at character development, it’s a wolf pack, where leadership is constantly moving, and there’s no real sense of attachment between the spectators and the heroes.
At the same time, it’s by no means a typical slasher, because of the PG-13 rating. While many successful horror movies were pushing the envelope through the use of gore, Escape Room (2019) lacks in that scary substance too, and often feels like a spicier episode of Goosebumps, which needs to withdraw from playing too rough.
Set designs improve the overall experience with Escape Room (2019)
The scares aren’t there, but Adam Robitel finds a way out of his own maze, thanks to an admirable set design. Whether it’s a looney room filled with hallucinogenic gas or a bar with its ceiling and floor turned upside down, Robitel never ceases to entertain. These wicked interiors keep the concept fresh at all times, and that compensates for the lack of graphic content.
At least partially, because some obvious holes are still visible in Robitel’s canvas. Holes such as awfully wooden dialogues, which hurt the most during the first half an hour. The story has no deeper meaning either, although Robitel pretends to unravel it in a sequel.
The end of Escape Room (2019) reveals that Adam Robitel had an obvious appetite for more. Leaving an open ending promises that the director could push an R-rated version in this next installment. Hopefully it means exactly that, because there is hardly a competition between Escape Room (2019) and Saw or Cube for now.
Escape Room (2019) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
The set design helps director Adam Robitel immensely, as it patches the holes in plot development, script and a disappointing PG-13 rating.
Escape Room (2019)
Dir. Adam Robitel
Hate Grade: 5/10