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Escape Room

A modern take on a familiar premise, “Escape Room” is a tense and entertaining thriller to usher in what will hopefully be another great year of horror.

Escape Room will be recognizable to many horror fans. The popularity of escape rooms as an activity is a somewhat recent phenomenon, making the movie original in at least one sense. But just because we’ve seen similar ideas before doesn’t make this one bad. If you enjoyed Cube (1997) and The Belko Experiment (2016) — and, to some extent, the Saw movies — then it’s likely that you’ll also find a lot to like in this movie.

Director Adam Robitel previously helmed last year’s Insidious: The Last Key, which was not very well received by most, and The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), which is a somewhat popular possession movie. What do both of those films have in common? The supernatural.

Escape Room is definitely in a different league: it’s a horror/mystery/thriller in which the only forces at play are human beings.

The setup involves a group of six people who don’t know each other each being invited to an escape room, with the promise of $10,000 for those who can solve it. What it takes them a while to realize is that this isn’t an ordinary escape room experience; each room in the series could actually kill them if they don’t get out in time.

The cast for this film is a fun mix of familiar faces and relative unknowns. The first three characters we’re introduced to are a shy but brilliant college student named Zoey (Taylor Russell); a fast-talking stock trader named Jason (Jay Ellis); and a grocery store employee named Ben (Logan Miller). Rounding out the group is the stoic but friendly Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll); the talkative Mike (Tyler Labine); and the escape room-obsessed Danny (Nik Dodani).

As you may expect in a story of characters brought together in such odd circumstances, there are a lot of butting heads throughout Escape Room, and it’s sometimes hard to figure out whose side you’re on when watching.

The strongest points of the movie are the tension that Robitel is able to build with almost nonstop intensity and the visuals.

Now, for the latter, there are plenty of visual effects that work, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, it’s the escape room designs that are impressive — one room is rendered entirely upside down — and add a layer of wild reality to the film. It’s hard to imagine being in the situation that these six are put into, but you’ll no doubt find yourself rooting for at least some of the characters.

There is a stigma around movies released at the beginning of the year, and it sometimes holds up. But despite being one of the first movies of 2019, Escape Room is a genuinely entertaining, and often chilling, way to spend your time.

Because the whole cast and crew did such a great job (with the exception of a few pieces of dialogue that may incite eye rolls), it’s a movie that’s easily worth your time in the theater if the premise intrigues you.