Movie review: ‘Escape Room’

Derivative, but still chilling horror flick banks on gamer-style adrenaline rush

By Rick Romancito
Posted 1/4/19

The new horror movie, "Escape Room," has been rightfully compared to the Canadian cult flick, "Cube." The similarity is illustrated by a group ...

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Movie review: ‘Escape Room’

Derivative, but still chilling horror flick banks on gamer-style adrenaline rush


The new horror movie, "Escape Room," has been rightfully compared to the Canadian cult flick "Cube." The similarity is illustrated by a group of strangers who find themselves having to work together using slowly revealed individual skills in order to find clues to wriggle their ways out of one gut-churning predicament after another.

Where they diverge in both style and quality is in the director of the new one, Adam Robitel (“The Taking of Deborah Logan”), possibly taking lessons from the old, while actually improving on the concept.

Murky, right?

Absolutely, but these kinds of movies draw drooling fanboys like ravens to a picnic plate left unattended because they're rooted in addictive video game adrenaline. The film taps into this by embellishing the primary trick that video game designers have almost universally exploited, which is to keep the action moving forward using clues as small triumphs the user “discovers” that help them maneuver through each challenge. Details like consistency, logic and depth are left on the cutting-room floor.

In fact, that's how the six characters in "Escape Room" are lured into the “game” at hand. Each receives a mysterious puzzle box in the mail. Curious, they toy with it until it begins to behave a little like the "Hellraiser" doohickey, but instead of Lovecraftian horrors, out pops a message that gives them a chance to win $10,000 if they choose to play.

They go to a nondescript building where they are ushered into a kind of waiting room. Some have been revealed to have particular skills such as knowledge of mathematics, business, gaming and physical prowess. As they trade small talk and get to know each other, the game has begun.

Manipulated by unseen operators who observe the players via video surveillance, the players Zooey (Taylor Russell), Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), Mike (Taylor Labine), Ben (Logan Miller), Jason (Jay Ellis) and Danny (Nik Dodani) assume the game is scary but essentially harmless. That is, until one of them dies. And then, another. As the game continues, they also begin to realize the game is much more personalized than they ever imagined.

Director Robitel, working from a script by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik, develops more of a cohesive story underlying the twisted shenanigans than in “Cube.” He develops characters that undergo various transformations as it unfolds, some good, some bad, but they help provide the road map for where things are headed. This leads, however, to some eye-rolling predictability at times and not terribly surprising plot turns, but, hey, you stepped onto this ride and this is where it’s taking you.

Like “Cube,” this movie seems destined to become a franchise. Let’s hope it doesn’t get mired in the surreal silliness of “Cube" sequels.

Tempo grade: C+

“Escape Room” is rated PG-13 for terror/perilous action, violence, some suggestive material and language.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

Also showing in Taos

Jupiter’s Moon

MPAA rating: Not rated, but does contain some nudity and bloody violence

Taos Community Auditorium

A young immigrant is shot down while illegally crossing the border. Terrified and in shock, wounded Aryan Dashni (Zsombor Jéger) can now mysteriously levitate at will. Thrown into a refugee camp, he is smuggled out by Dr. Gabor Stern (Merab Ninidze), intent on exploiting his extraordinary secret.

Pursued by enraged camp director Laszlo (György Cserhalmi), the fugitives remain on the move in search of safety and money. Inspired by Aryan's amazing powers, Stern takes a leap of faith in a world where miracles are trafficked for small change.

Celebrated Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó weaves a wider message into this passionate defense of Europe’s refugees and manages to condemn people’s fear of foreign, alien otherness. His weightless camera snakes dreamlike through the action, as if Superman had been remade by Andrei Tarkovsky.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 6) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Jan. 7-9) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit


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