Place six strangers in a confirmed space, add a series of dire circumstances, up the financial stakes and sprinkle in a little humor and what you get is a rollercoaster, psychological thriller which brings a horror twist to the concept of escape rooms. An edge of your seat thrill ride, this film follows several strangers who are lured by a grand prize of $10,000 to visit an escape room where they have to use their wits to find the clues before the clock runs out, or face sudden death.
Jay Ellis (“Insecure”) plays Jason Walker, a charismatic, competitive and egotistical hotshot executive who we first meet as the film opens. He’s received an invitation to the escape room from one of his clients. Lured by the power of conquest, he decides to join the game and it’s there he meets five fellow players who range from all walks of life and include a blue-collar trucker from West Virginia (Tyler Labine), a loner who survived a plane crash in which her mother was killed (Taylor Russell) and a man who lives his life in self-destruct mode after being the lone survivor in a horrific car accident (Logan Miller).
“You can think of my character Jason as Christian Bale in American Psycho, Pacino as the guy who is ‘always closing’ in Glengarry Glen Ross, or Ben Affleck’s character in Boiler Room,” shares Ellis who is best known for his role as Lawrence Walker in the HBO Series ‘Insecure.” The characters’ journey begins in the Waiting Room. Believing at first that they will be participating in an innocent game, the group are not aware they have already engaged in the game and tempers flare as the game progress as it throws the characters immediately into a pressure cooker situation.
“Anytime you are trapped in a space with people you don’t know or like, it’s the perfect checkbox for scary,” Ellis continues. “You have to be using your brains when you’re in these rooms because the people who created the rooms want us to die one by one and you’re constantly trying to figure out what’s wrong, where you can or can’t step, and what’s actually the way out – versus what could be just a distraction.”
The idea of strangers being brought together for mysterious reasons, thrust in a dangerous claustrophobic environment and having to work together is what makes this movie appealing as each of the characters have been specifically chosen and invited to be a part of the escape room experience – and soon discover, there’s a mystery that links them all together. A film about solving a puzzle with deadly consequences, each character is initially a mystery, which adds to the intensity of it and there are flashbacks to their earlier lives as the movie progresses.
All six are put in extreme situations from a heat intensified room to an ice room with temperatures which rival the North Pole. There’s also a Billiard Room, which has turned the room upside down where the floor panels drop away to reveal a treacherous lift shaft with a 15-story drop and it’s engaging to watch as you never know who is going to become a hero and rise to the top.
“It’s fun to actually figure out what are the clues, the keys to getting out out the room and the red herrings. Every time I walk into a room now I check an exit just to make sure. It will make you look at rooms differently and more importantly who you are in a room with as you see what people are willing to do to survive,” adds Ellis who is currently in pre-production on the highly anticipated sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” starring Tom Cruise which hits theaters next summer.
Check out the trailer below for “Escape Room” which releases in theaters in the U.S. January 4.
Samantha Ofole-Prince is an entertainment industry specialist and contributes to Trendy Africa Magazine from Los Angeles. Photos by David Bloomer