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Welcome to the Kill Count, where we tally up the victims in all our favorite horror movies. I'm James A. Janisse and today we're looking at Escape Room, released in 2019. Escape Room's premise and title comes from the relatively recent fad of room-sized puzzles you have to escape within a certain time limit. Chelsea and I are enormous fans of puzzles in general and escape rooms in particular, and I will say this movie does a great job replicating the experience of looking for clues and figuring out codes - only here, if you don't figure it out in time, it's not your pride you lose, but your life. Escape Room is a sleek film with exceptional production design - room after room features phenomenal detailing and creative dangers for the characters to avoid. The characters themselves are... fine, for the most part. Distinct, at the very least. Some of them are played by VERY likeable actors, which, in my mind, makes up for the weaker and shallower ones. And while the overall plot isn't exactly anything groundbreaking, the clue-searching sections are just smart enough to keep you from feeling like you're being talked down to. Overall, it's a fun movie - not perfect, but not bad.
If you can get past the first 20 minutes, there is a solid hour in the middle before an ending that, in my opinion, is a bit muddled and meh. Here, you start looking for numbers or symbols, and I'll start looking for bodies - cause it's time for the kills! The movie begins in a fancy study. Damn, this place is picture perfect, I don't think anything could disrupt the tranquility of- anddd a dude just fell through the ceiling. He frantically yammers about clues and numbers while the room starts to shrink around him. He gets all sorts of fucked up trying to figure out what to do, but since there's no Scout's Guide to follow, the walls close in on him before he can escape.
We jump to 3 days prior so we can meet all of our protagonists. Main girl Zoey Davis is a smart but timid quantum science college student; Jason Walker is a super alpha super aggro stock trader; and Ben Miller, that guy from the cold open, is stuck at a dead end job with a drinking problem. Like I mentioned, this first act is definitely the film's weakest, with all these clunky character introductions and a pretty generic tone.
The three of them each receive a mysterious black puzzle box that encourages them to open new doors. Through brainpower, YouTube tutorials, and violent desperation, they each unlock the prize - an entry voucher to the Minos escape room with potential prize money of 10 thousand dollars. Not a bad room escapin rate! These three aren't the only ones invited to Minos, named after the Greek mythological figure who would trap people in the Minotaur's labyrinth. Joining them for the Great Escape, first, is Amanda Harper, played by Deborah Ann Woll, who was in True Blood and Daredevil - and who's also a big D&D player. Not only was she Dungeon Master in Geek & Sundry's Relics and Rarities, but she's also DMed games for Dead Meat's very own Zoran Gvojic! Her cell phone is confiscated in the Minos lobby... "Can't be Twitter-ing pictures of the puzzles." ...but another player, Danny Khan, is an expert room escaper who knows the ropes enough to sneak in a second. The two of them get to the waiting room where we meet our 6th and final puzzler, Mike Nolan.
He's played by Tyler Labine, who you'll recognize as Dale from the previously-covered Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. A frosty receptionist tells Amanda to sit down and wait, as the players show us how some of them are pretty thinly-sketched in caricatures "Can you still play video games?" "No, no man, unfortunately I can't.
So, I just have sex with adult women." Yeah, that interaction had me concerned about the rest of the movie, but luckily, the other characters are enjoyable, and things start getting better right about now. Ben tries to go outside for a cigarette but inadvertently kicks things off by exposing their first puzzle "It looks like an oven dial, which means it's probably a combination lock." Danny, who's done 93 escape rooms, tells the others to start looking for clues. They do, and we see that some of the things they find have a certain disquieting effect on them. Shpoookeh? Amanda notes that all the magazines there are addressed to the same person "A 'Doctor Wutan Yu'?" Oh, Wutan Yu? He ain't nothin to fuck with. They find what they're looking for in a Bradbury book but when Zoey dials it in, it doesn't open the door - it instead turns on an electric heater in the ceiling. Better find more clues, y'all, this place about to be sweat city. "It's really throwin off some heat." "Yeah, it's warm." Amanda's not a fan of the rise in temperature and tries to ask the receptionist for a clue.
But the unseen employee has a single robotic response to their requests "Please have a seat, someone will be with you shortly." *Amanda breathes heavily* "Okay, uhh..." As the room continues preheating with coils wrapped around pillars, Zoey finds another key that they can use. With it, they unlock the glass divider to reveal a mannequin receptionist who kinda looks like Kristen Bell from this angle. Just a little.
Things get red hot as all the windows are shuttered, turning the room into an oven and sending everyone into a panic - especially Amanda, who has burn scars on her neck. Zoey finally realizes that the key to their escape is in the coasters - when all of them are pressed down, a shaft in the wall opens up. With everyone else needing to manually depress the buttons, Jason volunteers slash demands he go in first to see what's up. He finds a way out, but as the others follow him into the vent, they run into a logistical problem with the coasters. "I feel like we're avoiding the inevitable conclusion here... we're running out of hands." Once again, Zoey comes to the rescue, realizing that with a little bit of water weight, they can keep the buttons down, hands-free! Zoey climbs in to help Amanda, who's having a hard time here thanks to some PTSD from her time in Iraq - we see her messed up in a flashback that shows one soldier dead in the background. Danny and Ben start filling glasses to weigh down the coasters, but when they're short a few ounces and the ceiling's broiler comes on, Ben has to use the rest of his flask stash to get them out of there - right before the lobby is incinerated, receptionist and all. The puzzlers wind up in a new cabin-looking room, with all of them rightly pyissed except Danny, who somehow still thinks this is part of the experience.
Amanda tries to quit to the cameras watching them and call the police on Danny's back-up phone, but with no response or any cell service, they're shit out of luck and stuck. Uhh, back to escapin rooms, I guess! I'd love to know how interesting this movie is for people who don't do escape rooms, because as a major fan of them, it's actually entertaining for me to watch the characters try to figure out clues.
An embroidered song lyric and some reindeer skulls cause Ben to flash back to a time when he drunkenly crashed his car, killing the four friends he was driving and cutting short their Christmas carol *shout-singing* ♪ "You'll go down in his-tor-ryyyyyyy!" ♪ *Semi horn blares* *tires squeal* Rough thing to reflect on, but at least it gives him an answer they need - the combination to this door lock is Rudolph! Huh, that was easy - like monopoly! They leave the cabin and find themselves in a winter wonderland "Dumb question.. are we outside?" Not quite, Mike - there's a pissed-off wall in this here room, and it is ready to VENT! An inverse of their previous danger, they now find themselves the victims of dropping temperatures - with only one coat provided for the lot of them. This Narnia-esque Ice Room was the biggest set of the film, and the most challenging to shoot in - due to a slippery floor and that hazy gas, which required crew members to wear respirator masks. As Amanda begins a rotational sharing system with the coat, Mike finds a fishing rod and Zoey grabs a magnet out of a bear's mouth. You know, as you do! They drop line through an ice hole into some water that proves VERY deep indeed.
They pull up a key - yay! - frozen inside a block of ice - boo! and the only one among them with a source of fire is grimy Ben - ew.
Ben snidely throws the lighter at them, and when Danny goes to retrieve it, he falls straight through the ice. A current drags the kid away and the others are unable to retrieve him before he drowns, becoming the first victim of this deadly escape room and the first non-flashback kill on our count. The others yell at Ben for the asshole-ish way he threw his lighter, but Jason's not one to linger on the past - he knows they have to melt this ice block with their body heat if they have any hope of escaping this room. They incubate that baby while Jason has flashbacks to a similarly freezing incident from his past. Eventually they get the key free and use it to progress to room number three - just in time, too, since this room looks like it was done playing with them anyway. This new room is a pool hall, which isn't hot OR cold. It's just upside down. Aw man, how you supposed to call your shots when the balls ain't even following gravity? By this point in the movie, it's impossible not to be impressed by the set design.
Each and every room has a ridiculous amount of detail and feels like a real place. "This isn't about like tortuous devices on people's bodies and stuff, this is like a living, breathing space that's gonna change when the characters interact with it." The practical sets - which gave the actors a lot to work off of - were put together by an amazing construction team and art department, all working under the direction of Production Designer Ed Thomas. Thomas's design is the best part of this film, so I'm glad he's returning for the upcoming sequel.
The speakers start blaring Petula Clark's 'Downtown', AKA Juliet's introduction song, and right after Mike realizes that the pool table's missing the 8 ball, the room's like 'Yeah? Well maybe I'm also missing the FLOOR!' A VERY high stakes game of The Floor is Lava begins and Amanda rises to the occasion, climbing her way like a badass up up and behind the bar on the ceiling. Deborah Ann Woll did a lot of these stunts on her own while wearing a safety harness. She and the other cast members trained for this sequence's 8 day shoot under Stunt Coordinator Grant Hulley, who also helped Danny's actor Nik Dodani for his death scene, as Dodani had never swum before. Amanda finds a lockbox, but without Al Gore and his expertise around, they resort to brute force "Try '1234', just to see." Sorry Mike, this puzzle ain't your dad's WiFi network. Zoey realizes there's a sliding puzzle on the wall, so she makes her way over and starts to solve it. Better hurry there, Z, this floor is sick of being a floor. She solves it to reveal a combination based on billiard balls, but despite their best efforts to work together, the room keeps falling apart like it were Brittle Hollow. Zoey nearly falls down the floor shaft, but instead survives the present danger while enduring past trauma - a flashback shows a time when her parents and at least one other person were killed in a plane accident.
This room's all about evoking Lost, huh? Jason helps Zoey back up and as the camera has fun with this room's perspective, Amanda cracks the code into the lockbox. Inside is the 8 ball they need to advance, but to take it to the others, Amanda will have to get over this gulf.
Dammit, Minos, Amanda already put her time in at the Gulf! She's able to Ninja Warrior across, but when the 8 ball falls from her pocket, she chooses to drop down and retrieve it, to make sure the others can escape. After tossing it up to Jason, the final floor panel drops out. Amanda's only able to prolong the inevitable momentarily before falling to her presumable death down an endlessly long chasm. *impact echos* Oh, nope, it wasn't endless. She definitely hit an end down there. The 4 surviving contestants move into the next room, which has a door marked triage- cause this one's themed like a hospital. And not just any hospital, either - "This was my room." All of the players, in fact, recognize their own hospital rooms from the past recreated here. Their medical files are present as well, as is Amanda's, inside this section dressed up like a war tent.
They read that Amanda was the only survivor of an IED blast in Iraq. That means she had a similar experience to Zoey, who was the only survivor of the plane crash that killed her parents. Jason was the only survivor of a boat accident after his roommate swam away, confused by hypothermia; Ben was the only one who lived through that drunken sleigh accident, and finally Mike was the only survivor of a mine shaft cave-in shown in a flashback.
He says it killed 10 people, but we only see one body here, and since we never met the other miners as characters, I'm not gonna put em on the list. Sorry! These revelations show what the six players have in common. "We're sole survivors." "So what?" "We're a statistical improbability! And now they wanna see who will be the luckiest among the lucky." The theme of trauma was added by Maria Melnik, who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Bragi Schut, who came up with the initial idea. This is one of those movies put together by producers, such as Ori Marmur and Neal H. Moritz. Director Adam Robitel wasn't brought in until later, although he did make the movie his own during the 43 day shoot in Cape Town. This was Robitel's third time at the helm after two previous horror films, The Taking of Deborah Logan and Insidious: The Last Key.
Whoever recruited these players knew enough about their histories to sprinkle in specific details. The dangers of each room were also tailored to their tragedies - the waiting room's incineration was similar to Amanda's IED experience; the freezing cold ice room mimicked Jason's bout with hypothermia; and the danger of the upside down billiard room was gravity, the same force of nature that killed Zoey's parents. Zoey finds Danny's file and sees he was the only member of his family who survived a carbon monoxide incident.
That's why this room's got tanks of poison gas - and they'll unload as soon as this timer runs out. The guys begin scurrying for clues again while Zoey scurries for a metal bar to bust out the cameras watching them. A sign language clue leads them to EKG, so they strap one up to Ben in hopes that his heart rate will open the door. When it appears to be too low, they hook it up to Mike, but his ticker ain't tub thumpin enough either. Jason gets the idea to paddle Mike's chest like a medic in Battlefield 2 - even though, in real life, defibrillators STOP your heart, not make it beat faster. The plan succeeds in getting Mike's heart rate up, but he's not good to go or get back to the fight - he's dead, in fact, which is a real damn shame. Mike was an unassuming character who ended up being my favorite of the bunch. Tyler Labine is just that likeable. The doors still haven't opened, and as the gas starts spewing, Jason realizes they might need to register a really low heart rate as well.
He diodes himself up and meditates or some shit, until his heart rate goes sub 50, which opens up the next door. He wastes no time escaping, but Zoey's not interested in following - she's determined to bring down the police state instead, so she stays behind as Ben moves on without her. Damn, Zoester - that's a good way to get foamy mouth.
Ben and Jason find themselves in a room ripped straight from an art exhibit, with fingerprint lookin wallpaper and a static-y screen casting shadows on them. Ben calls out Jason's callousness and sleuths out that his friend didn't just swim away in a daze - he was actually drowned and killed by Jason so he could survive using the only jacket they had. "Surviving is a choice! *water gurgles* *Ben gasps for air* "Make yours." Yeah, up yours! Er, wait, he said 'make yours'. They find a hatch on the floor and open it to reveal Marsellus Wallace's soul inside. GLOWAY! And yo, man, souls are trippy as fuckkk! Turns out the hatch door was smeared with some kind of poisonous hallucinogen, matching Ben's inebriated state during his accident and making it difficult right now to read the next clue *distorted speech* "You're free to leave...
but may we note... it's best to find the... antidote?" Escape Room has already shown off its production design and creative rooms, but now it's got me impressed by this stylistic shift to show the drug effects.
Very awesome. Ben finds an antidote that's only good for one dose, and y'all better close your eyes if flashing lights bother you, because when Jason sees that he has it, the ensuing fight is a stroby, rockin affair. Things get pretty confusing as the actors spin around on a giant Lazy Suzan. As you might've bet, Jason gets the antidote in the end so I guess that means he- oh shit, nevermind! That dude's dead now, his head cracked open after Ben tackled him into a wall. Jason was a character we've seen plenty of times before - asshole alpha in a group survivor situation - but I will say Jay Ellis was effective in the role. Ben gives himself the good stuff and drops into the movie's cold open, which was a mostly unnecessary nonlinear bit of storytelling. Director Robitel confirmed it was simply to set the tone, and it replaced an alternate opening that showed a Spanish futbol team failing to pass the first room. Glad they didn't go with that one - it spoils way too much of the waiting room section and would have made the later scene there a lot less interesting.
As Ben faces down those trash compactor walls, we briefly check back in with Zoey, who's still passed out in the hospital room. Some people in Hazmat suits enter and note that she was reaching for an oxygen mask "What the hell was she gonna do with that?" "Breathe, bitch!" *Zoey yells as she swings* Zoey beats them down, but I won't count them as kills, cause she doesn't use this gun to double tap them before she leaves. In the game room, Ben's nearly crushed to death, mimicking how Mike almost died during the mine shaft collapse.
Ben survives the narrowing walls by hiding in a fireplace with a shield. Oh, what a knight! He ends up in a large warehouse with a bunch of film equipment and a viewing station, then hears the voice of the Gamemaster telling him he's won - which was NOT the expected outcome. "Did you ever think you had that in you? That adrenaline, that drive?" This unassuming feller is Wootan Yu, the Gamemaster, and he compares what he's doing here to gladiator games and public executions - a way to watch people die for entertainment. Could've just made a YouTube channel, brah. His clients, the viewers, are the illuminati-type leaders of the world, who are always looking for new groups of people to play their murder games. The theme for this year's contestants was sole survivors of tragic accidents "They wanted to know if luck had anything to do with it." Whether it did or didn't, Ben was this game's winner - so, naturally, he asks if he can please go home now please "At the end of the Kentucky Derby, do you think the horse gets a prize?" Well, they don't just strangle the horse behind the race track, dick, pretty sure they're sold for breedin or as riding horses. During this scuffle, the Gamemaster's screens are hacked and he shows up on them, labelled as a contestant in play - so you might wanna dodge these bullets dude, gettin shot ain't a winning strategy!
This fight with the newly-invigorated Zoey, which Taylor Russell plays quite convincingly, includes fun stuff like couch tackling and bottle breaking. Ultimately, Ben kills the Gamemaster by shooting him a couple of times just offscreen- though we do see the body for full confirmation. Good work, kids!
You two are real winners. They escape the building together and, perhaps unexpectedly, actually get away - like, to the point where Ben gets medical help and Zoey talks to the police. But their subsequent search of the Minos building reveals that it's abandoned, with no elaborate series of escape rooms. The cops say they've found no evidence for anything Zoey's said, but that doesn't stop her from putting together more clues - she realizes that No Way Out is NOT ONLY where Mick Foley lost his retirement match, but is also an anagram for Wootan Yu. Six months later, Zoey and Ben are getting coffee when she reveals that she's been up to some fact-finding - apparently the bodies of Mike, Jason, Danny, and Amanda were all found and reported as products of fatal accidents. Ben wants to leave the experience in the past and live his life, but Zoey wants to punish the people who put them through it all. She shows him that she's deconstructed Minos's company logo and discovered some coordinates leading to an industrial building in Manhattan. Best pack an overnight bag, Benny my boy, cause Zoey's already bought plane tickets for the both of yas! Ben reluctantly agrees to go with her, and then we cut to a plane with an engine on fire.
The flight attendants on board are in a familiar-looking situation, searching frantically for clues and trying to open locked doors. They finally break into the cockpit and find that the plane is on a crash course with that mountain right thyeah. You gonna be able to pull up in time, lady?
*explosion and glass breaking* *screen crackles* "Ending sim!" Nevermind, no need to - this was all a game! Or rather, a run-through, complete with play testers. This newest escape room is currently in its development stage, and tests have shown it has a 4% chance of survival. The movie ends with us realizing it's slated for Zoey and Ben, and hoping that they'll once again be able to beat the odds. How many people didn't manage to escape this movie alive? Let's find out and get to the numbers- *gears start turning* What? Oh, fuck! Uhh! Whoa- waaaaa!
*gears lock in place* Ugh. God. Oh!
Lucy, get down from there! *meows* Huh! Uh hu! Ho! She's okay. *smooches* C'mon Lucy, let's go to the numbers. Oh wait, it'd be this way now, huh? 15 people died in Escape Room, in various traps and flashbacks. 9 of the victims were men, 4 were women, and 2 were unknown, giving us this puzzling pie chart we'll have to decipher.
Oh wait. Nevermind, I get it. With a runtime of 100 minutes, that left us with a kill on average every 6.67 minutes.
I'll give the Golden Chainsaw for Coolest Kill to Jason - not just because it was the most violent or because it meant the end of the scary asshole character, but because of the entire fun trippy sequence it capped off. Dull Machete for lamest kill will go to Mike, because while we knew everyone was gonna die one by one, it was sad to lose him in such a lackluster way. And that's it. Escape Room came out in 2019 and a sequel is due out in just a couple of months, on July 16th. As always, I'll look at that AFTER it's out on bluray. Until then I'm James A. Janisse. This has been the Kill Count. On the next Kill Count...
We've made it through the night. "Beat em or burn em, they go up pretty easy." We've survived a deadly dawn. "Holy shit." It's finally time for a brand new day.
*screams* Though, come to think of it, what's the point? By Day of the Dead, the dead have taken over and human survivors are scarce. "We're in the minority now. Something like 400,000 to 1, by my calculations." A group of scientists are running experiments on zombies, but the soldiers watching over them or running out of patience. "I'm running this monkey farm now, Frankenstein, and I wanna know what the fuck you're doin with my time!" As things grow more dire, their philosophical clash threatens to turn violent. "This is a great, big, 14 mile tombstone!" Day of the Dead is dark and contemplative - "You can just sit there, in the dark, and think about what you've done." and takes place almost entirely underground. It's excellent for anyone wanting to discuss human nature during a zombie apocalypse. "Think about it!" "I came down here to get drunk, I don't have the energy." AND for anyone who wants real nasty gore! "Choke on em!" Cause that's in here too.
Don't worry. Not that Youtube will let us show any of it! "Keep it up, and I'll shove that bottle of yours right up your wise-ass!" This week, watch the final film in Romero's Original Trilogy, *echoing* Day of the Dead!
And this Friday, watch the Kill Count on Dead Meat! "I've got better things to do than listen to this kindergarten. Are we finished here?" Day of the Dead can currently be watched on the pictured streaming platforms. Dead Meat always recommends you watch the movie for yourself before it's Kill Count. It's the only way to have your own properly informed opinion. Kill Counts are never meant to replace the experience of watching a film. Thanks a lot for watching this extra Kill Count! I wanna thank some Patrons, like Gabrielle Mahan, Quinn Reilly, Paul Cell, Ramon Rosario, Genevieve, and Lou Irving. I hope you've been enjoying these extra Sunday Kill Counts.
I have another one next week, but it's for Zoran's music video, Social Mediasochist 2. And then in June, we're back down to one a week, so I can, yknow, sleep. But!
June will see the premiere of Zoran's brand new series, They Talk! So keep an eye out for that one, alright? Thanks everyone! Be good people.