If you thought splatter films had gone extinct, think again. Soft-splatter film ‘No Escape‘ doesn’t redefine the horror sub-genre, but tries to popularize it with the use of social media and influencers. Think ‘Hostel‘ in the digital era.
When Cole (Keegan Allen – ‘Pretty Little Liars‘) travels with his friends to Moscow, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his 12 million+ subscribers channel #ERL – ESCAPE REAL LIFE, he has no idea what he’s getting himself into. His friends planned a secret activity at an unknown location, which excites him knowing he’ll be able to shoot some new content for his successful vlog. Always pushing the limits and catering to a growing audience, they all enter an escape room owned by Russian rich kid Alexei (Ronen Rubinstein – ‘9-1-1: Lone Star‘), who claims it’s going to “change his life”. Cole will have to free his friends from deadly torture devices, such as a water tank, an electric chair and an iron maiden – before the timer runs out, solving a series of puzzles, while his followers can follow his every move online. The group will have to fight to escape, and survive the unexpected challenges they face.
Director Will Wernick (‘Escape Room‘, 2017) was clearly influenced by Eli Roth’s classic torture porn. Not only is there no reason to revive this sub genre, that died with the declining quality of the Saw-franchise, but I also believe by pushing it into the digital era, it becomes even more of a sub genre that no one is waiting for. That social media element does work for the first third of the film. You can tell Cole feels a ton of pressure to put on a certain kind of facade and “entertain” his followers. In the meantime, his girlfriend Erin (Holland Roden – ‘Channel Zero‘), can’t get used to him constantly choosing to share every single thing they experience together.
The first 30 minutes are quite enjoyable and promising, but just when this group of friends enters an abandoned Russian prison, the film starts to wander into familiar and unfortunately also generic territory. Wernick tries to bring a fresh take to the torture puzzles, but with the majority of the cast not really giving a convincing performance, you have a bit of a failed experiment. At the end of the film, those unconvincing performances seem intentional, when ‘No Escape‘ spins the entire story into a certain David Fincher-scenario.
Roden is without a doubt the film’s strongest asset. Why Wernick (who also wrote the story) decided to barely use her in the film is a mystery to you and I, but at least she knew what she was doing. Allen also does a fine job in the film’s first half hour, but from then on it becomes clear he doesn’t quite have the range to convincingly portray the emotional roller coaster Cole has to go through. The remaining supporting cast has their moments, but mostly under performs when given the chance to leave a lasting impression.
‘No Escape‘ isn’t gory enough to be scary, and not exciting enough to be memorable. Wernick’s ‘Hostel‘ meets ‘The Game‘-vehicle tries too hard, making it difficult to relate to these unfortunate influencers’ “struggles”. Well intentioned, but not worthy of a double-tap. Keep scrolling.
NO ESCAPE is now available on Digital and On Demand
Review – ‘No Escape’
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), September 22, 2020. Rating: MA15+ Running time: 92 min.
PRODUCTION: A Vertical Entertainment release of an Escape Productions production. Producers: Jeff Delson, Kelly Delson, Sonia Lisette, Will Wernick. Executive producers: Mike Bundlie, Babacar Diene, Philip W. Schaltz.
CREW: Director/screenplay: Will Wernick. Editing: Cris Mertens. Cinematography: Jason Goodell. Score: Crystal Grooms Mangano.
WITH: Holland Roden, Ronen Rubinstein, Keegan Allen, Denzel Whitaker, Emilia Ares, Pasha D. Lychnikoff, Kimberly Quinn, Inja Zalta, Dominic Pace, Siya.
Cover photo: Holland Roden as Erin in the horror/thriller film “NO ESCAPE” a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.