‘Escape Room’ Unlocks Mystery


Graphic by Cj Groom

‘Escape Room’ is a new thriller that utilizes relatable trends in order to frighten the audience.

Creepy and deceiving, Escape Room is a fresh and relatable psychological thriller. Released on Jan. 4, the movie has received mixed reviews from critics and movie-goers alike. While it may not be totally realistic, Escape Room is the story of six daring strangers coerced into participating in an escape room “game,” complete with a tempting monetary reward promised to the winner. However, the challenge becomes increasingly realistic and the group quickly realizes that their fun expedition is nothing more than a death sentence for all but the victor.  The movie is engaging, emotional, and jam-packed full of terrifying twists and turns.

Utilizing pop-culture trends seems to be a growing theme in recent horror movies. Director Adam Robitel is the mastermind behind many paranormal horrors such as Insidious: The Last Key and The Taking of Deborah Logan. However, Escape Room appears as his first realistic horror film. When directors choose to turn mundane, familiar situations into worst-case scenarios, more people are likely to be captivated and frightened because they realize their proximity to the possibility of danger. For example, many new thrillers are centered around the internet, a tool very near and dear to many of our hearts. Relatable  horror movies spark a certain fear in viewers which supernatural movies may fail to accomplish. Audiences are more likely to feel heightened emotions when a dangerous situation seems like a possibility in real life.

From the opening scene, viewers are met with creepy, shadow-infested settings, undeveloped characters, and a mix of both foreseeable and unpredictable plot twists. Each room acts as a milestone, revealing more and more about the players’ pasts and the game’s true nature. This format is pleasing because it makes an otherwise confusing movie much easier to follow. The film is original and full of surprising stunts which dance on the border of reality, easily inflicting panic and excitement in the audience. Simultaneously, tired, cliché lines are delivered by actors who the audience may struggle to resonate with. While the horror may outweigh the humor, there are a few hilarious moments mostly scattered throughout the beginning, before things get too intense.  Many whimsical, trendy jokes are included to create a false illusion of peace and happiness. Despite the typical morbid plot, a major twist ending makes the movie seem like an unrealistic stretch, as if it were rushed to be produced while the fad is still popular. The last few minutes of any movie should arguably leave movie-goers in awe, conclude the film, and make sense of the plot. However, the ending of Escape Room is disappointing; multiple confusing twists which unravel the satisfying closure and set up for an uninviting sequel.

I hesitate to call the plot predictable as each room is increasingly stranger than the last and it took me up until the final scene to fully understand the film. The characters’ backstories are revealed gradually through flashbacks triggered by traumatic memories. The minimalistic characterization means viewers are unaware of the players’ individual strengths and weaknesses, which allows each of the members to seem equally as likely to win the game. The polarizing range of characters is pleasant because they each have their own agenda, reactions, and motives, despite the occasional poor acting. Their personalities and morals are crystal clear and quite differing. The audience may quickly form strong likings to a few of the characters or resentment to some others. Consequently, I found myself both cheering and yelling angrily at certain scenes, mainly in shock, but also in wonder about the truth ahead.

Acting aside, the overall aesthetic of Escape Room, including setting scenery, camera angles, timing, and sound is professionally and beautifully done. Along with many great horror movies, the sound is intense, overwhelming and eerily accurate. Similarly, there are times of enormous silence and anticipation which can feel louder than chaos. The many rooms are filled with thematic furniture, objects, and decorations, mostly used to confuse the participants, but nonetheless admirable. The movie moves quickly, as there is a lot of action, but the intermittent pauses of anticipation can seem to last forever. The change of pace throughout the film forms a roller coaster which jolts around movie-goers in awe.

Escape Room leans on high intensity emotion, trippy scenery, and the audience’s lack of prior knowledge to convey a mood of anxious unfamiliarity. It forms a highly captivating film as viewers are not only watching to understand the plot, but also the characters and the sinister intentions behind the game. Overall, the movie is satisfyingly surprising and full of unexpected action, sentiment, and revelations.