A Deadly Escape Room Traps Social Media Star in Taut but Trite No Escape (2020)
Title: No Escape
First Wide Release: July 16, 2020 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Will Wernick
Writer: Will Wernick
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Starring: Keegan Allen, Holland Roden, Denzel Whitaker
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
An influencer (Keegan Allen) celebrates ten years of making content by taking a surprise trip to Russia with his best friends. Once there, they learn they are taking part in an extreme escape room. When the games begin, the group realize the traps may be deadlier than anticipated and that something is seriously wrong with this competition. No Escape is Will Wernick’s third feature film and coincidentally it is also his second horror film based on escape rooms.
Soaked in suspense and tension, No Escape is a nail-biting, albeit derivative, addition to the Americans in Danger Abroad subgenre of horror.
No Escape is a film we have seen a dozen times already but that doesn’t immediately negate its charm. The traps employ a decent amount of creativity, without living up to the expectation of highly personalized torture that was promised by the group’s sinister host. It’s ironic that the cat-and-mouse chase that follows is more elaborate than the jail cells they originally find themselves in at the beginning. I appreciate that the film sews just enough doubt to keep the viewer guessing where it will go next, even if the viewer ultimately guesses right the first time. While No Escape isn’t anything to write home about, it gets the job done.
I have to give credit where credit is due, of all the films that have tackled obnoxious social media personalities, No Escape paints the clearest picture of their inspiration. Cole (Allen) is clearly a Logan Paul clone, from the hair to the secondhand embarrassment to the caring more about engagement than the wellbeing of others (see the real-life example of Paul filming a corpse in the Aokigahara Forest). Cole’s character arc is pretty standard for this fare, so don’t expect anything special here. And while Allen isn’t the strongest of actors, he still carries the film fine, as does the supporting cast. My one issue stems from Pasha Lynchnikoff’s Andrei, who feels a bit too cartoonish for me and definitely plays into the Russian men are evil stereotype popular in American filmmaking.
The world of No Escape is crafted with assurance even if it doesn’t feel as expansive or imaginative as it should be. The set is immersive and appropriately intricate even though it doesn’t quite reach its potential. While one may expect a film like this to be gory, No Escape deceptively takes a more psychological approach. That being said, the effects used are realistic. The editing adds to the frantic nature of the film and the chaos of its world. You’d be hard-pressed to find that many lingering scenes, as almost everything is shot in rapid-fire succession.
Will Wernick must have finished No Escape with much more confidence than he did when completing 2017’s Escape Room. His sophomore feature is leagues better than his first attempt at making escape rooms scary. No Escape is both dark and tense with a relentless pace that gets going pretty early on in the film. I often found myself squirming in my seat during the various trap and puzzle sequences which is perfect for a film like this. I would have appreciated a few changes here and there, namely with the ending, before I would feel comfortable calling this a good film. In general, it feels too familiar and doesn’t bring much outside of good action sequences to the table, which is absolutely fine with me and for anyone else looking for an entertaining film to pass the time.
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There’s actually a good morality tale underneath all the faux-grittiness and Rube Goldberg devices. Prank culture has often gone too far when paired with social media personalities. Real people can get hurt for real, really easily, especially when they are tricked for someone else’s amusement. Choosing to emulate Logan Paul, going so far as to even cast one of his real-life friends, George Janko, is an important choice the film makes here. Paul is the type of social media personality that goes to great lengths to get a good video. Having a movie pose what happens when someone bites back is a necessary, if conventional, question to ask. Being at the mercy of others isn’t fun and Cole learns that the hard way in this film.
By now you’ve probably gotten the gist of how I feel about this film. To me, No Escape is a fun and dumb horror movie that isn’t trying to set the world on fire. However unoriginal and predictable its premise is laid out to be is offset by competent filmmaking and great choreography. I’d recommend this film for fans of Hostel and Saw-like movies, with the caveat that it is an inferior version of both. Like, subscribe, and share it to your movies to watch cue if you’re feeling bored on a quiet night at home.
Overall Score? 6.5/10