Escape Room film review: puzzle horror with a mean streak

A group of friends head to a mysterious Escape Room and face their own dark secrets

Not to be confused with the upcoming Adam Robitel horror of the same name, Will Wernick’s chiller aims for a blend of Cube and Saw as it pitches a group of friends against a deadly escape room with increasingly mean-spirited results.

It’s Tyler’s (Evan Williams) birthday and his girlfriend Christen (Elisabeth Hower) has a surprise for him. They and their four close friends will be heading to a mysterious escape room where they’ll have to solve puzzles to find their way out. At first everything seems normal, except that Christen seems to have vanished, presumably to another room. But little do they know that the games are about to turn nasty…

Despite some dodgy dialogue and on the nose characterisation, there are some signs early on that this could be a clever, twisty thriller. We see how each member of the group knows (nearly) everything about each other and that their patterns of behaviour are predictable. Their weaknesses are about to be exploited, and Wenick and writer Noah AD hold off on the horror until nearly the hour mark (barring a Saw-esque opening sequence with the doomed last man of a previous game).

The problems arise when it becomes clear that the characters’ traits and actions aren’t just obvious to each other, they’re predictable to the audience. Tyler, who everyone loves, is so clearly signposted as a shit from early on that there’s no surprise when he reveals his ruthless streak, and the film’s treatment of its women is questionable, with Tyler’s brother’s wife Natasha (Annabelle Stephenson) having no character development beyond being a cheat and Christen left naked in a cage for the bulk of the film’s running time.

The performances are mostly fine but a couple of fun gory surprises can’t get rid of the nasty taste Escape Room leaves in your mouth and there’s really not enough here to recommend it, especially when it’s walking a path so many superior puzzle horrors have taken us down before. Rewatch one of those instead, or go to a real escape room.