From a game master’s standpoint, escape rooms are a doorway into the human mind. In my time at The Haunted Hydro, I’ve run my share of escape rooms, and even got to train some of my fellow actors on how to run them. The first rule that one of my colleagues has for escape rooms is simple: people are stupid. I have watched people, even after being more or less given the answer on a silver platter, question the information in front of them and do the exact opposite, often to hilarious, if aggravating, consequence. Seeing people problem-solve is an exercise in schadenfreude unlike any other.
A group of six strangers are summoned to a grand escape game, with the promise of a $10,000 cash prize for those who make it out in time. Each of the six has their own story, from high-powered businessman to Army veteran, but before long, they find that there may be more that unifies them than their curiosity and competitiveness. When the games take a turn for the deadly, the cash prize feels like a novelty, as the focus shifts to making it out of this latest Wootan Yu creation alive.
Much like with my review of Haunt, my personal experiences weighed heavily on my desire to see this film, if only to see how the genre I love would treat the subject matter. That being said, the scope of design for the escape rooms in this film are a treat. Each puzzle has its own distinct theme and look, and no two puzzles play the same. Though the budget for the film was lower for Hollywood ($9 million), it appears as though the rooms were built proper, as opposed to gimmicked with visual effects, making this game master a happy camper.
Given my colleague’s rule about escape rooms, I expected the bulk of the film to be bumbling around the puzzles until someone miraculously stumbles upon the solution. Even with a couple of brainiacs in the bunch, I’ve seen some intelligent folks look like fools when put in the room and left to their devices. The plot has no qualms about putting the likeable characters in harm’s way, or even doing away with them when one least expects it, and that’s a welcome change from the typical “chosen one” style of Battle Royale-esque plotlines.
As Motorhead sang, “it’s all about the game, and how you play it,” and Escape Room plays the game without doing too much different. There’s nothing jaw-dropping or game-changing about the execution, but one should not confuse competence with mediocrity. It’s a fun ride for what it is, and it is worth checking out, especially for fans of the escape game craze that has swept the entertainment industry.