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Dulling the Saw Blade

Escape Room follows a wide array of gifted people as they enter a mysterious escape room contest. It soon becomes apparent that this escape room challenge is deadly, and the group must work together to escape with their lives.

Escape Room Review

The easiest way to sum up Escape Room on a superficial level is that it's essentially a mild, more inclusive version of Saw or Cube. Both hard-R films balanced their puzzles and character development with gruesome violence. Escape Room tones down the violence while retaining the character development and puzzle solving. In doing so, it's more accessible to a wide array of audiences at the expense of fully satisfying diehard horror fans.

And that's okay. Psychological thrillers are a popular substitute for horror fans such as myself. I'm happy to sacrifice violence and scares for a decent plot and characters. Low budget films like Exam and Circle are flawed, but entertaining examples of this model. Escape Room isn't perfection in this arena, but its attempt is admirable and passable. Character progression can often suffer, but the film does a decent enough job of keeping you involved with every character in some capacity. But it's really about the puzzles.

And the puzzles are of course the highlight of the film. You want to see the progression of solving each room and the unique challenges that room presents. For the most part, this creates viable tension and engagement with the audience.

The acting holds up just fine throughout, with no actor failing to achieve the intended goal in any given scene. Yet, no performance stands out that I'd bother to mention an actor/actress by name (personal favorite Tyler Labine, who is generally a scene-stealer, is barely existent). The dialogue is semi-predictable as characters flesh out their respective familiar roles in such movies. The narcissistic entrepreneur, the "aw shucks" father figure, the naive goof, the soldier, the traumatized genius, and the timid loner. It's a formula present in almost all of these films, and I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Escape Room's greatest flaw comes in the final 5-10 minutes of the film. It compacts three films-worth of exposition into a seemingly endless number of LOTR Return of the King "endings". It gives that overwhelming feeling that the studio saw a franchise coming on halfway through production, so they decided to quickly tie in some sequel opportunities. Escape Room could make for a decent little franchise, trying to up the ante in the death-defying puzzle solving, but the comically delivered exposition at the end feels more like an unecessary and campy stinger than the proper conclusion to a film. I could have done without it.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 6/10

Horror Quality: 3/10

Film Quality: 6/10

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