‘No Escape’ Review: Escape This Lame and Tame Torture Thriller
By Daniel Rester
Writer-director Will Wernick’s No Escape is the latest horror film to try and capitalize on those fun social escape rooms found in places like malls. It’s an interesting idea, but no film has really succeeded at it so far despite some creative efforts in mixing puzzles and traps. Escape Room (2019) came the closest to getting it right, but even that one dropped the ball in the third act. Wernick already failed at it with his last film, also titled Escape Room (2017), and he fails at it again with No Escape.
Keegan Allen plays Cole Turner, an obnoxious social media personality who does wild things for his vlog called “Extreme Real Life” as he travels around the world. His ten years since starting his channel is coming up, so he wants to celebrate with something big. His buddies and girlfriend accompany him to Moscow, where they are set to take part in an exclusive escape room experience. Once they are playing the game, however, Cole begins to realize that they may be in real danger.
Wernick’s film wants to be fresh by combining a vlog experience with escape room terror, but the angle falls flat because he mostly just spends his time borrowing from films like The Game (1997), Saw (2004), and Hostel (2005). Cole and the rest of the characters are so dumb that it’s impossible to care about them either. Some of them, for instance, are attached to dangerous traps like spike coffins and stretching machines and still think it’s all a game.
The traps themselves are pretty weak. The violence involving them will prove too tame for gore hounds, while the time filling around the traps is just a game of hide and seek for the most part. Of course all of this insanity leads to a big twist, but if you’ve seen films like this then you will guess it a mile away.
Wernick’s film is too noisy and glossy instead of focusing in on the horror. He uses the social media likes and comments screen pop-ups way too much, making them less effective each time. All of the Russian characters are made to be exotic and weird cartoons too, while the humanity in the Americans doesn’t register most of the time.
There is one clever puzzle involving water jugs in No Escape, but even that one is borrowed from Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995). The film does move quickly though, and the escape room prison setting is effectively grungy. The cinematography and editing are always competent and never inept as well. Allen also turns in a committed lead performance despite Cole being hard to root for at times as he changes from a social media snob into a survivor fighting for his life.
No Escape falls flat because it doesn’t do enough new in trying to push forward the escape room subgenre. Its falling back on Hostel and Saw-like torture doesn’t work either as it never goes for the throat visually. There are a few compelling moments, and Allen is strong, but ultimately being locked in a room with No Escape isn’t worth the time.
My Grade: 4/10 (letter grade equivalent: D+)
Running Time: 1h 28min