Making a bid for King of January’s First Weekend, Adam Robitel follows up 2018 opener Insidious: The Last Key with Escape Room, another well-made thriller but one that trades supernatural jump scares for heart-pounding, time-sensitive suspense.
The story of six individuals— none of whom are developed enough nor portrayed in ways that warrant highlighting — lured to the titular game with promises of a $10,000 prize raises comparisons to the Saw and Hunger Games movies once it becomes clear that death is possible, and the film delivers excitement in line with those films’ best moments as the players frantically attempt to survive.
Flashbacks to the contestants’ pasts, revealing eerie overlaps with certain details of each room, suggest larger scheming at work and further the ties to those forebears, though attempts to verbally suss out the predicament’s logic and, well, pretty much any stretch of sustained dialogue unaccompanied by action makes one yearn for a new sadistic room.
The surprising amount of chit-chat by uninspired performers suggests Escape Room’s true calling may have been as a challenge-oriented short film, yet considering the similarities with the aforementioned series, an all but assured box office profit, and the set-up for a likely sequel, the saga appears far from over.
Grade: C-plus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Columbia Pictures)