A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Escape Room is a thriller in the vein of Saw -- i.e., strangers find themselves stuck in a locked space where they must solve puzzles to avoid deathly peril -- but with toned-down violence and language. That said, while little blood or gore is shown, there's constant peril leading to death via drowning/freezing, falling, electrocution, etc., as well as fighting, attempted murder, and a fatal shooting. You can also expect occasional swearing ("ass," "s--t," etc.) and some smoking and teen drinking (the latter leads to a fatal car accident). The cast includes Taylor Russell (Lost in Space), Logan Miller, and Deborah Ann Woll.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In ESCAPE ROOM, six strangers are summoned to solve puzzles in locked spaces. And the dangers in the elaborately constructed chambers -- including the inside of a giant oven and an upside-down pool hall -- turn out to be real. The players, including brilliant but traumatized student Zoey (Taylor Russell), guilty young Ben (Logan Miller) who's trying to rebuild his life, and tough Iraq vet Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), must work together to survive.
Is it any good?
This horror film/thriller has its virtues, but it badly strains viewers' suspension of disbelief and can't avoid feeling like Saw with duller teeth. The most fun parts of Escape Room are the occasional solvable puzzle and the detail and imagination in the sets. Production designer Edward Thomas (Doctor Who) is the MVP. And some of the performances, including Russell's sympathetic lead work, are good. But the movie is inconsistent in just about every other way. Some of the characters are drawn in detail, while others are thumbnail sketches leaning toward cliché. Some traps allow viewers to think along; others require information we're not given. And some are so implausible that they're likely to shake viewers out of the film. Its 10 Little Indians structure (picking off characters one at a time) and standard moral compass prevent the story from delivering significant surprises.
Plus, with its ultra-elaborate traps and unlikely amount of insider knowledge about the players, the movie can't "escape" comparisons to the much more violent, much crueler torture-porn franchise Saw. Escape Room is tailored for a younger audience, and it's certainly not as ugly as the gorier franchise -- and, thankfully, it has less of that series' bitter, faux moralistic overtones. There's some fun to be had, a few laughs, and a reasonable amount of tension throughout, with only a few jumping-out-of-the-cupboard startle scares. But predictable story beats and the movie's extreme reliance on suspension of disbelief keep Escape Room from rising too high above the genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Did the traps seem realistic/possible? Did the trapmakers' knowledge of the players seem believable? Do you require some baseline level of realism for a movie like this, or are you able to suspend your disbelief enough to go with it?
How are the women in the film portrayed? Are they weak or strong, stupid or smart, empathetic or unfeeling? Is that typical for this genre?
- In theaters: January 4, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2019
- Cast: Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, Logan Miller
- Director: Adam Robitel
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: terror/perilous action, violence, some suggestive material and language
- Last updated: March 16, 2021
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