HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: ESCAPE ROOM

Starring

Taylor Russell (Lost In Space)
Logan Miller (Love, Simon)
Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil)
Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale vs Evil)
Jay Ellis (Movie 43)
Nik Dodani (Other People)
Yorick van Wageningen (47 Ronin)

Jay Ellis, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, and Nik Dodani in Escape Room (2019)In Chicago, physics student Zoey, stockboy Ben, daytrader Jason, war veteran Amanda, trucker Mike, and escape room enthusiast Danny receive invitations to the Minos Escape Room Facility for a chance to win $10,000. Gathering in the facility’s waiting room, the players discover they are locked inside and the game has already begun. Searching for clues, Zoey inadvertently activates heating traps, but manages to unlock a vent. As the players make their way through, Amanda has a flashback of crawling through the aftermath of an IED attack in Iraq. Everyone escapes as the room is engulfed in flames.The players find themselves in a winter cabin, with the door locked by a seven-letter combination. Clues in the room include a poster on the wall that says “You’ll go down in history”, and nine deer heads, each with a different letter under them. The room’s clues trigger Ben to have a flashback of driving drunk with friends, singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” before crashing the car. He realizes the nine deer heads refer to Santa’s nine reindeer, and “You’ll go down in history” is the last line of the song he and his friends were singing. He suggests “Rudolph,” which unlocks the door, and the group escapes into a room resembling a frozen lake. They find the locked exit and a single red coat, and use a fishing pole and magnet to retrieve a key encased in an ice block. Danny falls through the ice and drowns, and the remaining players are forced to melt the block with body heat to free the key. Jason has a flashback of freezing beside someone in a red coat; the players unlock the exit as the ice explodes.Deborah Ann Woll in Escape Room (2019)The five players enter an upside-down billiards bar, where the song “Downtown” plays on repeat. In a version of musical chairs, whenever the song stops, a section of floor falls away to reveal an elevator shaft. They find a locked safe, and identify a missing 8 ball as the key to the room. Zoey has a flashback of the aftermath of a plane crash, and realizes the puzzle’s clues are upside down. Retrieving the eight ball from the safe, Amanda accidentally drops it and sacrifices herself, throwing the ball to Jason before plummeting to her death.Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, and Nik Dodani in Escape Room (2019)The four remaining players enter a hospital ward with six beds, revealing all players were sole survivors: Zoey survived a plane crash; Jason, a boating accident with his roommate; Ben, the car crash; Mike, a mining cave-in; Danny, carbon monoxide poisoning; and Amanda, the IED blast. Realizing the entire game has been based on these events, they deduce that the EKG machine will unlock the next room. Trying to open the door, Jason inadvertently kills Mike with a defibrillator. As the room fills with gas, Jason hooks himself up to the EKG and lets the gas lower his heartrate, opening a passageway. Jason and Ben escape, but Zoey refuses to continue and collapses from the gas.Escape Room (2019)Entering a room covered in optical illusions and strobe lights, Ben confronts Jason over his disregard for the others, and deduces that Jason survived his accident by killing his roommate for the coat. They open a hatch in the floor but are drugged with a hallucinogen. Fighting its effects, Ben finds the antidote and, in a struggle for the single dose, breaks his leg but kills Jason. Ben injects himself and falls through the hatch into an elaborate study room, solving the puzzle and narrowly avoiding being crushed by the walls. In the hospital room, armed Minos employees enter in hazmat gear. Zoey, having survived, incapacitates them, seizes a gun, and escapes into a maintenance area.Logan Miller and Deborah Ann Woll in Escape Room (2019)Ben is met by the Game Master, who has controlled the game as designed by the Puzzle Maker. He explains the true nature of the contest: players with a shared experience – college athletes, savants, lone survivors, celebrities, etc. – are lured into the game, and wealthy viewers bet on the survivors. The Game Master tries to kill Ben, but Zoey arrives, and she and Ben manage to kill the Game Master. As Ben recovers, Zoey tries to explain events to the police, but all evidence at the facility has disappeared. Six months later, Zoey shows Ben that the other players’ deaths have been staged as everyday accidents, and he agrees to join her on a flight to New York City to stop the Minos company. However, Minos and the mysterious Puzzle Maker are already preparing to make their flight a new deadly game.Deborah Ann Woll in Escape Room (2019)Drawing influences from Saw (2004), Final Destination (2000), and Cube (1997). While the premise doesn’t exactly scream originality, Escape Room is a perfectly enjoyable little thriller. For those expecting buckets of gore and sickening death scenes, look elsewhere, as Schut and Melnik’s screenplay is much more attuned to focusing on the elaborate puzzles themselves, resulting in a film that intrigues rather than disturbs. Pace wise, the film doesn’t slow down and is engaging throughout, some of the puzzle rooms are quite visually arresting, and thankfully the characters aren’t just one dimensional zeroes either. While the ending does border on nonsensical, Escape Room is a still a fun film that is definitely worth checking out.

REVIEW: LOST IN SPACE (2018)

 

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)

MAIN CAST

Molly Parker (Pure)
Toby Stephens (The Machine)
Taylor Russell (The Maze)
Ignacio Serricchio (Bones)
Maxwell Jenkins (A Family Man)
Mina Sundwall (#Horror)
Parker Posey (Superman Returns)
Brian Steele (Terminator Salvation)

Maxwell Jenkins in Lost in Space (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Raza Jaffrey (Homeland)
Ajay Friese (Riot Girls)
Veenu Sandhu (Ambrosia)
Sibongile Mlambo (Teen Wolf)
Kiki Sukezane (Heroes Reborn)
Amelia Burstyn (Defiance)
Yukari Komatsu (Godzilla)
Adam Greydon Reid (Izombie)
Iain Belcher (Ungodly Acts)
Rowan Schlosberg (The Crossing)
Selma Blair (Hellboy)
Bill Mumy (Babylon 5)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (47 Ronin)
Shaun Parkes (The Mummy Returns)
Amelia Burstyn (Defiance)

Lost in Space (2018)After a large mysterious object called the Christmas Star collides with Earth, humanity is forced to look for a new habitable world to call home. When their mothership, The Resolute, runs into a spacetime disruption, all of the Jupiter ships, including the Robinsons’, are forced to evacuate, which results in their ship crash-landing on an uncharted planet. This is where the Robinsons encounter their greatest enemy…No, not Dr. Smith…We’ll get to her later. Their biggest stumbling block is themselves. Especially when it comes to working together. The writers’ effective use of flashbacks throughout the season offers vital information, which helps the viewer better understand what makes the Robinsons tick.Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Ignacio Serricchio, Maxwell Jenkins, Mina Sundwall, and Taylor Russell in Lost in Space (2018)For instance, John Robinson, played by Black Sails alum Toby Stephens, struggles to be the father his children need him to be in times of crisis. We learn early on that he’s a Marine and rarely sees his children because he’s out on secret missions most of the time. When his son Will (Maxwell Jenkins) can’t find the courage to complete a difficult task, instead of being a comforting parent, John treats Will like a soldier, barking orders and telling him to follow protocol. Stephens deftly portrays John as a man who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know how. It’s a dilemma that only gets worse once the robot shows up.“Danger Will Robinson” is back with a reimagined version of the hulking arm-flapping robot. The robot’s origin story is a bit different and more unique than its predecessors, but we won’t spoil the reasons why. In place of a distant father, Will’s relationship with the Robot becomes pivotal to the entire season, as John both loathes and respects the robot for looking after his son. Something John failed to do back on Earth. The Robinson women are equally fantastic. Maureen, the mom, is the leader of the group. Even John cowers in her wake. Actress Molly Parker (Deadwood) gives a fierce performance as the Robinson matriarch, who like John, finds it difficult to know when to trust that her kids will make the right decisions.Molly Parker in Lost in Space (2018)There’s also Penny (Mina Sundwall), the middle child, and Judy (Taylor Russell), the oldest. Of all the kids, Judy goes through the biggest transformation this season. At 18, she’s already a trained surgeon who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders whenever someone is badly injured. After going through her own traumatic event shortly after their crash, Judy experiences bouts of PTSD that impede her ability to do her job. Russell handles her character’s fragile emotional state well.Let’s talk about Dr. Smith, played by Parker Posey. In a series that has effectively resurfaced as a dynamic 21st-century drama, Posey’s Smith feels like she’s stuck back in 1965. Her version of Smith is always up to no good and it’s hard to understand why the Robinsons keep giving her chances instead of throwing her out of the airlock. Dr. Smith is just so obviously evil, with no complexity to her character. Even when the writers try to develop her backstory, it falls short. None of her motivations, except for survival, make sense. If you took Smith out of the picture, no one would miss her. Lost in Space is a stellar sci-fi adventure series that the whole family can enjoy. The Robinsons are a fascinating bunch that are fighting for their own survival as well as that of the human race. Over the course of its 10 episodes, you will be introduced to some other colorful characters like the roguish Don Smith, played by a charismatic Ignacio Serricchio and Victor Dhar, the political-type you just love to hate. If you take Smith out of the equation, the series is worth getting lost in.