‘Escape Room’ Has the Fun of ‘Saw’ Without the Gore

     If you’re looking for fun, inventive horror lite, Escape Room is for you.

     When the trailer for Escape Room first hit, I remember being reminded of the Saw franchise.  I went in expecting traps, and I got traps.  What I didn’t get was torture porn.  Deaths are not over the top violent or gory for gore’s sake.  I mean, I ‘ll give a Saw movie a chance just like any horror fan, but by the time they hit III or IV, they became more about the violence and less about the game.  What I enjoyed about the traps in Escape Room is that you weren’t spending the movie trying to figure out how these people “deserved it.”  Each trap revealed a little more about each character’s past and it was more about figuring out what they had in common than how they needed to atone.

     Plus, feeling super smug when you managed to figure out a clue before the characters is a major part of the appeal for the audience.

     The ensemble cast is great together.  They interact with each other in a believable way, and you are invested enough in each character to care about what happens to them and who will make it to the next room.  That has been my problem with many of the later entries in the  Saw series; I just didn’t care enough about the characters and also didn’t feel like they were changed in any way by the intended lesson that Jigsaw was trying to teach.

     My only gripe about the film is that the villain just didn’t feel all that well fleshed out.  I would have loved to see a much clearer motive as well as more of the faces involved.  It boils down to my same frustration with The X-Files, really; the unknown “they” becomes too much of a catch-all word.  Without a clear bad guy to take down, a storyline can crumble.  Leaving the bad guy shadowy and sinister is a frustrating move, though they have clearly left this one open for a sequel.  If more of these films are made and we get more hints as to who the bad guys are and their motives, it is a forgivable offense.

     Personally, I have never done an escape room.  I’ve played countless computer based puzzle games (I’m looking at you in particular, maddening last few Professor Layton puzzles!), but have never made the foray into the immersive stuff.  This movie feels like the best advertising escape rooms could ever have.  You get the rundown on the rules, the desire to figure out the puzzles, and when you leave the theater you will be itching to go out and find one that (hopefully) won’t kill you.

     This is a movie that is fun for horror fans, and would be thrilling for all of your non-scary movie loving friends.  The tension is high, but scares are mild enough to not scar any wimpy people that your care deeply for.

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