Though I prefer that a movie drop hints throughout the film, like breadcrumbs, to which the audience can say ‘ah-ha’ once the twist is discovered, Escape: Puzzle of Fear is one of those movies that fibs its way to the end in order for its “twist” to come to fruition. Though leaps in logic are sometimes required along the journey and the ending can be guessed at from the beginning, this revenge crime flick is certainly thrilling, as the characters are forced to go through different rooms to get to the truth, descending into a hell of their own making.
Well-off playboy, Matthew (Tommy Nash), lives a life of arrogance, dominance, and enforcing female subservience. His best friend Tyler (Omar Gooding) and his wife are due for a weekend visit at his house that he shares with his girlfriend, Brittany (Aubrey Reynolds), and for the first night, only some softcore sexual tension unfolds. The group decides to attend an escape experience at “Escape Hotel”, choosing the crime and punishment option which lands them with the task of solving a murder mystery. As they and their fellow escape room attendees discover clues, the escape room experience begins to blur with reality.
I don’t quite know how to feel about Escape: Puzzle of Fear. From a handful of players, the acting is great, from others, it is terribly amateur with them stumbling over words and messing with the impact and flow of scenes. At times the story teases complexity with flashbacks and a revenge premise, at other times, it requires great leaps in logic as the movie tries to build an atmosphere with its macabre imagery but the events for these visual setups don’t quite make sense. At all times the movie is lit like a softcore porno, which I am not mad at — the production quality is actually great, but to me the film falters in the build-up to its ending revelation, giving away the end and lessening the intended effect.
Escape: Puzzle of Fear focuses on being visually exciting but there is at least one glaring image that gives away the ending within 20 minutes, and it seems that director J. Jones and/or writer Lizzie Gordon could have held back more information from the audience so some characters wouldn’t seem like a lazy lie, and more importantly, so that the ending is more of a mystery. The flashback scenes could have been saved for the end, so the twist feels more like an ‘oh my god’ moment. The ending can be guessed at once the group enters the escape room anyway, and the film starts to make less and less sense from there. Unfortunately, this incoherence isn’t due to anything like complex psychological mind-fuckery, instead, I was just wondering why characters don’t ask questions when their kind of character logically would, it is obvious it is for the sake of the movie being able to continue.
This movie reminds me a lot of The Invitation and some Saw. Instead of being like a traditional escape from one room, these characters go through a series of set-ups in different rooms like in Saw 3D (but not at all gory), and like in The Invitation (2015), the audience is given a glimpse into the killer capabilities of man by the “accidental” slaying of a random animal, and also, star Tommy Nash is nearly a dead ringer in look and acting style of Logan Marshall-Green in The Invitation. These are great films to channel artistically, and it paid off in magnetic performances from the film’s core cast and made for some exciting scenes in claustrophobic settings. Overall it is a movie worth watching once and it can be found beginning August 18th when it is released to DVD by Uncork’d Entertainment.
MOVIE RATING — 6.5 out of 10
|Escape: Puzzle of Fear|
|Runtime:||1hr. 23 Mins.|