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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: No Escape

Director: Will Wernick

Screenplay: Will Wernick

Year: 2020

Escape rooms have garnered plenty of popularity during the last few years, and their influence in popular culture has permeated through horror cinema. Among the movies that have been released about this topic, “Escape Room” is probably the most famous one, which ended up being a lot better than expected. However, in 2017 another movie was released, also carrying the name “Escape Room”, which was not as well-received as the 29019 one, and whose director and producers join forces again in “No Escape”.

Cole is a famous vlogger whose videos focus on searching for extreme activities to show to his audience. Alongside his friends, he travels to Moscow to participate in an escape room that promises to be unique and frightening. What seems to be a simple game starts turning increasingly more dangerous, and Cole and his friend now have to fight for their survival. 

During the whole movie, we follow vlogger Cole (Keegan Allen; “Pretty Little Liars”) and his friends, all of whom will participate in the escape room. During the first act, much time and effort are devoted to developing the characters and their relationships, focusing on the good relationship between Cole and his friends, particularly with his girlfriend Erin (Holland Roden; “Lost”). All of this first act is intended for the viewer to get to the heart of the dynamics among the escape room participants to later use these relationships in tense and emotional moments, but it does a weak job. 

A film like this depends on the viewer growing interested in the characters, which is the great flaw of “No Escape”. Cole’s character, who is the protagonist and around who the story develops, is not likable, and Allen’s acting doesn’t help make it interesting. This problem is not exclusive to the protagonist but extends through the rest of the cast. Once everyone’s life is on the line and is time to put to work that interest that should have been developed in the first act’s character build-up, we realize that this was a futile effort, and we do not care for the outcome of any of them. 

As soon as the game starts, we realize that this is not an ordinary escape room and different from what they expected. Soon the movie turns into a mix between “Escape Room” and a cheap version of “Hostel”, where the puzzle has much more dangerous repercussions than expected, something like a tamed version of “Saw”. Although it has some good practical effects to achieve explicit gore, most of the scenes in this line feel flat and do not deliver the level of violence they suggest, which feels disappointing.

“No Escape” tries to make the viewer interested in the group of friends who will later find themselves in a difficult situation to escape an escape room, but it fails to create interesting characters. At no point did I care about the outcome of any of the characters, which weakens the story and all the rest of the things it does well. It has some good gore and an unexpected twist at the end, but the poor characters are enough to overshadow any attempt to stand out.

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