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Movie Review

“Escape rooms are like living video games,” a game-geek guy named Danny says excitedly while chatting with fellow contestants in the Minos waiting room. He ought to know, he tells them, since he’s participated in 93 such adventures before.

The Minos Escape Rooms, though, are something special. Danny has read online that few have ever beaten the Minos Rooms. And he gushes about the street cred his group will grab if they get out.

The other five participants waiting with him, however, aren’t really all that excited about potential online accolades. They have their own reasons for showing up.

Cutthroat businessman Jason is purely interested in besting another challenge that he hasn’t yet conquered. Quiet-but-super-smart Zoey just wants to step outside her comfort zone. Blue-collar trucker Mike is interested in the winner’s cash prize. Meanwhile, stoner Ben and former vet Amanda have their own private motivations, which they both hold close to the vest.

One thing’s for sure, though: They all want to get started. In fact, Ben feels so antsy about all the waiting around, as well as the other players’ incessant jibber-jabber, that he decides to slip out for a pregame cigarette.

The only reason he hasn’t lit up already is because there's supposed to be some Game Master guy showing up soon. It’s this dude’s job to lay out the rules for the clue-finding and room-escaping activity that the six participants are about to embark upon. But if he doesn't care about being late, Ben's gonna have one last smoke.

But when disheveled Ben reaches for his cigs and then the waiting room doorknob, the latter snaps off in his hand. And nestled in the hole left behind is something that looks like the dial on … an oven. “What the … ?” Ben growls.

Danny, however, just about leaps for joy. This must be it!, he exclaims. They’re already in the escape room. It’s the waiting room itself! And just like that, the six disparate strangers begin looking for clues. Zoey, for instance, soon spies the cover of an old Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451. Surely that’s important, right?

Maybe so.

With a twist of the oven dial on the room’s door, the ceiling starts to glow hot with what look like oven coils. After another attempted application of a clue, the walls begin to glow red as well. It’s as if the room itself is turning into a giant oven. And the six people in it are the baking pastries of choice.

“Never seen anything like this,” gamer Danny admits. “Really immersive.”

But others in the room are beginning to suspect that this increasingly grim game … isn’t really a game at all.

Positive Elements

The six contestants make sacrificial choices for one another. Soft-spoken Zoey, for instance, notices former soldier Amanda’s frayed emotional state at one point and recognizes it as being symptomatic of PTSD. She comforts the young woman and nudges her to safety. And even though some of the players are more self-focused, eventually they all risk their own lives to help the others in their group.

In fact, the contestants' interactions with each other not only help others, but in some cases we see how those choices directly benefit the helpers themselves. Ben, for instance, becomes a stronger person who steps away from several vices in his life.

Spiritual Content


Sexual Content

We hear several winking allusions to masturbation. In another instance, after Danny asks Jason about his ability at playing video games, Jason snarkily retorts that he fills his empty time “having sex with adult women.” Zoey’s roommate wonders if Zoey is having an affair with her college professor. Zoey assures her that she’s not.

Violent Content

It turns out that the six central characters have each had some sort of traumatic experience in their past. So along with deadly events that take place in the present escape room situations, we also witness traumatic, violent events from their past.

We see someone being strangled in a violent fight with a friend. Another person falls through ice into frigid water, and we watch him struggle for air beneath the ice before drowning. Someone else flails about under the mind-altering effects of hypothermia. After a plane crash, dead bodies hang upside down in the burning cabin. Amanda is a victim of an IED attack; she tumbles out of a vehicle bloodied and burned, and we see the resulting healed scars years later. After a mine cave in, one individual is trapped under heavy debris and must listen as a loved one suffocates nearby.

People struggle and gasp from the effects of poison gas. Several people barely escape being burned alive from a roaring blast of fire. A man writhes around and eventually has his heart stopped by a defibrillator shock. Someone falls 20 stories to her death. And someone else is apparently crushed in a room with moving walls. Another man dies after striking his head on the edge of a table, leaving his forehead fatally gashed.

Someone is strangled with a wire around his throat. And in the bloodiest scene, one character gets hit in the face with a bottle and then shot at close range several times (just off-camera). We see the bloody results.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and some 25 s-words join a half dozen uses each of “a--” and “h---.” God’s and Jesus’ names are abused about 20 times total, with a dozen or so of those combining "god" with "d--n."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Ben smokes repeatedly. We see another man light up, too. Ben also carries a small flask around with him; in a flashback scene, he and some friends pass around a bottle of booze while driving. They end up in a drunken car wreck (which, we’re told, killed everyone but Ben).

A trap door in one escape room is covered in some sort of drug that seeps into the pores of two men and sends them on a mind-blitzing—and potentially deadly—psychedelic trip. (The affected pair struggles over a single life-saving antidote for the drug.)

Other Negative Elements

We eventually learn the disturbing secret that motivates the mysterious operator of the escape room.


Some film critics have referenced survival horror pics such as the Saw movies and the Final Destination series when talking about Escape Room. And without a doubt, viewers will sense the cinematic zeitgeist of both of those film franchises in this movie’s mix. I mean, what was Saw if not a graphic flick about a series of intense escape rooms … back before such things even existed?

The difference with Escape Room is that the grisly horror and "torture porn" aspects of those other franchises have been mostly snipped out of this PG-13 pic. We don’t just sit there, wincingly fearful of how the next victim will be butchered or pureed, as much as we wonder what clue might be right in front of these characters as situations crumble and the clock ticks down.

In fact, by cutting back on the blood, and by leaving the truly nasty bits out altogether, director Adam Robitel has created more of an adrenalized thriller than a pure horror flick. The film's plot is also equally driven by likeable characters who are paired with some dominating characters of another sort: the impressively designed, puzzle-filled escape room sets themselves. Those rooms, one and all, keep the action flowing and the tension palpable.

All of that said, however, Escape Room still doesn't deserve a hearty thumbs-up. Yes, there are positives in the form of brave, personal sacrifices and puzzle-solving derring-do. But audiences will have plenty of negatives to navigate, too. The film's obscenity-laden dialogue is something you definitely can’t puzzle your way out of. And the foul, death-dealing evil behind everything that happens here has no thought-provoking lessons to teach, no morality-tale takeaway. It’s simply evil for the gleeful sake of being evil.

Those off-putting elements drain this thriller of its virtues by the time the final clues are gathered and the last lock is sprung. And they’ll leave many potential Escape Room viewers with solid reasons to avoid this particular date night … escape.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Readability Age Range




Taylor Russell as Zoey; Deborah Ann Woll as Amanda; Tyler Labine as Mike; Logan Miller as Ben; Nik Dodani as Danny; Adam Robitel as Gabe


Adam Robitel ( )


Columbia Pictures



Record Label



In Theaters

January 4, 2019

On Video

April 23, 2019

Year Published



Bob Hoose

Content Caution

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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