In “Escape Room,” the new psychological thriller starring “True Blood’s” Deborah Ann Woll, the young characters don’t have time to mull over the past. They’re too busy thinking of the future and whether or not they will survive long enough to actually have one.
The story centers around six good-looking people (Woll, along with Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis and Nik Dodani) trapped in a series of immersive escape rooms. The twist? Whoever leaves last is necessarily the winner.
Each have been lured to the game—and possibly their doom—by a mysterious puzzle box delivered in the mail. They’re invited to test out a new, immersive escape room and, if they keep their wits about them and find their way out, they’ll be rewarded with $10,000. “They’re basically like real life videogames,” enthuses Danny (Dodani), an escape room geek the others nickname Gamer Boy.
Seems like an easy payday until they realize the puzzles are terrifying manifestations of each and every one of their deepest fears or trauma. One room turns into an oven (“We gotta find a way out of this Easy Bake Oven!”), another is an upside down hellscape and if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a Victorian drawing room that gets a little too close for comfort. “I can’t figure this out!” shouts truck driver Mike (Labine). “Who would do this?”
Like the less Kafkaesque (and less gory) offspring of “Cube” and “Saw,” “Escape Room” also borrows from the “Final Destination” flickers. The thing it is missing is the sense of grim fun that seeped into those other films. The rooms themselves are elaborate and yet all pretty much all the same. Find a key, unlock a door. There is suspense along the way and the stakes rise as the number of survivors lowers but we never get to know enough about each character to be invested in them. Sketchy background details fill in some blanks but it’s not enough to make you mourn the loss of any of them. Even when they do start to fall away it is with a casualness that sucks some of the drama out of the scenario. It’s as if all the effort went into the planning of the methods of executions and not the killings themselves.
Add to that some psychoanalysis and morality à la “Saw” and you have a movie that is more psychological drama than horror and even then it’s psychology-lite. The sequel ready ending promises more of the same should they ever get around to making “Escape Room 2: Breakout Boogaloo.”
“Escape Room” won’t exactly make you want to escape the theatre but it doesn’t really give you a great reason to be there in the first place.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the crime drama “White Boy Rick,” the Nicolas Cage rage-a-thon “Mandy” and the thriller “A Simple Favor.”
In real life Richard Wershe Jr. lived twenty lives all before the time he could legally have a drink. As a teenage FBI informant he lived the high life before it all came crashing down. A new film, “White Boy Rick,” details his rise and terrible tumble.
14-year-old Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) a.k.a. White Boy Rick, lives with his father Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey),and older sister Dawn (Bel Powley) across the street from his grandparents (Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie) in 1980s Detroit. Despite the newly launched “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign crack is everywhere, seducing many in his neighbourhood.
Sr. is a small time dealer in illegal guns with aspirations of one day opening up a legit business. Before he can do that, however, Jr. is convinced to become an undercover agent for the FBI. If he snitches on local drug dealers, they say, the feds will leave his father’s operation alone. The teenager takes the deal and soon is dealing cocaine and rolling in cash. His run comes to a sudden end when he becomes a victim of the war on drugs. Arrested for drug possession of an enormous amount of cocaine the feds drop him like a hot potato and he is sentenced to thirty years behind bars.
There’s a lot going on in “White Boy Rick.” The main thrust of the story, Jr.’s rise and fall, is muddied by the addition of side characters. They’re often entertaining—particularly in the case of the grandparents—or unexpectedly touching—Powley nicely portrays Dawn’s fragility and descent into addiction—but feel like after thoughts in an already busy movie.
Newcomer Merrit and McConaughey have great chemistry. Merrit, found at a Detroit casting call, isn’t quite up to the emotional heights necessary for us to care about him but fares better when he’s required to swagger around the screen.
While overstuffed, “White Boy Rick” does give McConaughey a chance to act as anchor, deftly portraying his desperation for the American Dream while keeping his family together in the only way he knows how.
“White Boy Rick” nicely captures the grit of 1980s Detroit and makes a powerful statement of the failure of the war on drugs but despite the multi-pronged story and dramatic turns in Jr.’s life it never completely grabs our attention.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the crime drama “White Boy Rick,” the Nicolas Cage rage-a-thon “Mandy” and why Lady Gaga kissed him at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall,” the animated “Ballerina,” the quirky “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick and the controversial Christian movie “The Shack.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall” and the controversial Christian movie “The Shack.”
“Before I Fall,” a new supernatural thriller based on the young adult novel of same name by Lauren Oliver, is essentially an anti-bullying “It gets better” advertisement stretched to feature length.
Zoey Deutch is Sam, high school senior and along with Lindsay (Halston Sage), Allison (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi), one of a quartet of mean girls. “Till death do us part,” they chant in a clumsy bit of foreshadowing. Best friends, Lindsay says, they’ve “kissed the hottest boys, gone to the sickest parties” and, since grade five made the lives of those they deemed less cool miserable. One such classmate is Juliet (Elena Kampouris), an outsider they nicknamed Mellow Yellow after a long ago camp bed wetting.
On Valentine’s Day the four attend a wild house party but things don’t go exactly as planned. On what was supposed to be Sam’s big night with her boyfriend Rob (Kian Lawley), he gets drunk and flirts with other girls. Worse, Juliet shows up to confront her tormentors. When the situation gets out of control the foursome storm out, piling into Lindsay’s SUV. Minutes later the vehicle veers off the road and spins through the air. All are killed.
Or are they?
The next morning Sam wakes up in her bed with a bad case of Déjà vu. It’s once again Valentine’s Day morning and she seems to be reliving the day all over again. “I feel I’m still dreaming,” she says, perplexed. “Or was yesterday a dream?” Is she destined to relive the worst day of her life over and over? Or can she change her fate? The opportunity to revisit the day brings with it some perspective on the way she has lived her life. Out go the eye rolls, in comes a wave of empathy. “Maybe everything done could be undone,” she says. “Maybe things could change and I could change them. If I had to live the same day over and over I would make it a worthy day… but not just for me.”
Like the time travelling child of “Groundhog Day” and “Mean Girls” (but without Bill Marie or Rachel McAdams), “Before I Fall” is a study of teen angst magnified by a glitch in time. For its young adult audience it will likely raise questions about tolerance, bullying and behaviour. Those for whom high school is a long distant memory may have a harder time finding a great deal of depth in Sam’s revelations.
As portrayed in the film Sam has some edge—she’s not very nice to her sister and ignores her parents—but her journey from sinner to saint might have had more oomph if we had seen more of her terrible behaviour. As it is Lindsay is the true mean girl and yet we’re never really sure what happens to her. “Before I Fall” is a redemption story about a teen who doesn’t seem as much mean as she does moody. Hollywood doesn’t like to make movies where the lead is unlikable but in this case it would have added to Sam’s story of salvation.
Deutch is a likable (perhaps too likable) presence and the story has good and timely messages about bullying, teen suicide and the cause and effect of high school life, but “Before I Fall” needs more edge to be truly cutting. Also, since this isn’t an episode of “Star Trek” I’ll forgive the disregard for the space-time continuum rules.
Richard’s alter ego Zomald Trump reviews the teenage Halloween freak-out “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” and some more adult fare in the ghostly form of “Our Brand is Crisis,” “Truth” and “Suffragette.”