First Hit: Despite the lack of depth, I thought this film was very entertaining to watch.
The premise is that six strangers, who each have had a particular type of tragedy in their lives, are thrown together into a set of increasingly dangerous rooms and must escape.
We meet Zoey (Taylor Russell) in her dorm room and electing to study during Thanksgiving holiday instead of accepting her roommate’s invitation to go home with her.
Then we’re introduced to Jason (Jay Ellis) who is a Wall Street deal maker, making a deal with one of his large clients.
We also meet Ben (Logan Miller) trying to better his life by asking for a customer interfacing position in the grocery store he works in and then gets turned down, the quick camera flash to a flask on a desk gives you a hint of his past.
Each of the six Zoey, Jason, Ben, Mike (Tyler Labine), Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), and Danny (Nik Dodani) receive a puzzle box, and because each of them knows how to solve puzzles, find the invitation hidden within the box to meet at a specific time and place.
When these strangers arrive into the reception room, they soon find out that the voice behind the glass reception window is recorded. Ben wants to go outside and have a cigarette and tries to leave. When he turns the door handle it breaks off in his hand, they are stuck. The group realizes that this room is part of the puzzle and they have to find a way out.
The room starts transforming into an oven and furnace with heating coils and flames coming out of the walls and ceiling. Together they start looking for clues to get out of the room.
Escaping this room by learning how to work together, they find themselves in a small comfortable mountain cabin room. Going out the front door, they are locked out of the cabin and in a freezing winter scene with a frozen lake. After finding an exit door they realize they need a key to unlock it.
The winter scene is getting colder and realizing they will die of hypothermia, they start working together to find the key that will allow them to escape this room.
While looking for the key, Danny falls through the ice and dies. Now the group realizes that the challenge their engaged in, is deadly.
As the group meets the challenge of each room, people are dying on the way. Finally, the remaining group find themselves in a dark grungy hospital room, where there are beds and corresponding folders that explain the history of each of them. Each of them was a lone survivor of an event in their life. Each was picked because they found a way.
Russell was the most compelling character in the film and as we discover in the end, cannot let the game go. There may be a sequel. Miller was very good as the semi-slacker who survives the game and subsequently changed his life. Woll was the most interesting person in the game. Her fearlessness and strength were perfectly portrayed. Ellis did a great job of being an arrogant jerk. His truth was exposed. Labine was very strong as the older experienced part of the team. Dodani was odd in his role as escape room junkie. His enthusiasm towards the dilemma the group found themselves in was over done. Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik wrote an OK screen play. I would have liked a bit more about the characters. Adam Robitel did a good job of creating tense situations and the sets were interesting, but the lack of depth didn’t quite work.
Overall: It wasn’t a great film, but I was intrigued by the rooms, clues and a couple of the characters.