Review: Escape Room (2017)

Escape Room (2017)

Directed by: Peter Dukes | 86 minutes | horror | Actors: Skeet Ulrich, Sean Young, Christine Donlon, Randy Wayne, Matt McVay, Ashley Gallegos, Hayley Goldstein, Iyad Hajjaj, Abraham Justice, Taylor Piedmonte, Hayley McLaughlin

Two souls one thought. In 2017, two slashers appeared almost simultaneously under the same name and with the same premise. In both ‘Escape Room’ by director Peter Dukes and in the film of the same name by Will Wernick, a group of young people must escape from a dangerous room full of puzzles. Wernick’s version made it to Dutch cinemas, while Dukes’ work did not get beyond the video market. It turned out to be a wrong choice, because the film discussed here is much better than the pitiful mess that played in the theaters.

In Dukes’ ‘Escape Room’ entrepreneur Brice (Skeet Ulrich) hopes that a famous horror critic will visit his Escape Room. To placate the critic, the entrepreneur quickly buys a box from an antique dealer. The gem would be ‘bewitched’ and therefore an ideal marketing ploy. Unfortunately, it does not stop with words and the box appears to possess demonic powers.

What sets this ‘Escape Room’ apart from its eponymous competitor is the use of creepy trivia. Dukes’ is a genre fan and has his characters referencing classics like ‘Gremlins’ and ‘The Thing’. Nicely conceived and immediately a good way to let his audience know that he has a warm heart for horror and that he is not your average bread film maker. The casting is also very good. Ulrich is an excellent performer and his colleagues are also doing well. The characters are empathetic and interesting enough to follow. Wernick scored very poorly in that area, because his film only contained annoying characters. The lack of acting talent played tricks on his ‘Escape Room’.

Anyway. Unfortunately, Dukes didn’t have the same budget as his competitor. His film therefore looks coarse-grained and less glossy. It certainly enhances the atmosphere, but in terms of special effects, the film is somewhat disappointing. The gore is minimal. Dukes does manage to increase the tension by having his characters work under time pressure. The decisions they make are also quite realistic by horror standards. There is thought. This ‘Escape Room’ is therefore a lot better than the cinema production of the same name.

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