Review: Peter Dukes’ Escape Room (A Modern Mix of Genres)

Escape rooms are becoming incredibly popular. I just participated in one a few months ago, and it was a fun idea to pass the time. My friends and I had to break out of a 1920’s styled saloon, but horror themed escape rooms are popping up all over the world. Aptly titled Escape Room, the feature length debut from writer/director Peter Dukes, is the first film to capitalize on the new craze; at least to my knowledge. Escape Room is already available overseas, but now it’s coming to the American movie market starting with a Redbox release on May 8th courtesy of Global Genesis Group and I definitely think you should check it out. I already knew that Peter Dukes was a capable film-maker after viewing his short projects including The Beast, Little Reaper and Sweet Madness, but, honestly and respectfully, I didn’t know he was this creative. He took a simple concept and event, an escape room, and turned it into a horrifying and gratifying mix of subgenres. In Escape Room, four friends partake in an LA escape room and find themselves trapped with a demonically possessed killer. See how an hour of fun becomes a living nightmare in Escape Room, starring Skeet Ulrich (The Craft, Scream), Sean Young (Blade Runner, Dune), Randy Wayne (Dukes of Hazard, Hellraiser: Judgement), Christine Donlon, Matt McVay, Ashley Gallegos, Hayley McLaughlin and Taylor Piedmonte.

Before I address anything else, I need to point out to everyone that Skeet Ulrich and Sean Young are vampires. They’ve barely aged since their heydays, and Escape Room is the best work I’ve seen from both of them in a long time. Maybe they were invigorated by Dukes’ script and its modern mix of genres, or maybe they were having a good week. Either way, great performances from both of them; and Sean gave an especially haunting performance as the demon keeper/antique shop owner. All of the cast and crew did a fantastic job, actually, and I’d love to see them in another horror film some day soon. Now, before the escape room survive or die drama begins, the viewer is treated to an overseas discover that feels very much like The Exorcist and Jumanji. This made me amped from the start because it already tossed new elements and new antagonists into a plot that I expected to be pretty cut and dry. Escape Room is a clever mix of The Possession and Saw and fully encompasses every aspect of horror, science fiction, mystery, suspense and drama with tidbits of comedy and thrills. It’s a beast of a movie and one that deserves to be seen!

As a production, I can’t criticize Escape Room in any area either. I wasn’t sure about the camera quality and tone at first, but it helped paint the mood and make Escape Room look like something that was toned down and nonthreatening, until the unrelenting horror and nonstop thrills take over. Cinematographer Pierlugi Malavisa, editor Eric Won and the plethera of producers including Harel Goldstein, John Rogers and Corbin Timbrook get a round of applause for their part in making this movie such a success. The story, the cast, and the commander were already firmly in place, but it all could have lost had it not been for the backing crew’s expert time and effort. I’m actually somewhat perplexed that Escape Room didn’t get a theatrical release because it’s on par with the quality of Chain Letter (2009) or Truth or Dare (2018). A cozy antique store and a sealed room give birth to a story rich in suspense and boasted by incredibly production design, mechanics, practical effects, perfect audio and angles that capture every second of the onslaught. This film’s got a small body count, but it sure as Hell delivers on the gore and terror. Well fucking done!

In between everything going on, Escape Room contains themes that are relate-able to all of us. The stress of a business or popular entity, and the desperation that comes with wanting to boost sales and keep new eyes on you. The fear of one bad review ruining something you worked so hard for. That kind of psychological torture that we do to ourselves is only modified and amplified on screen in Escape Room. A movie where the horror lingers in the background until it startles you out of your seat around the half hour mark, I can’t recommend this movie enough. Run to your Redbox on May 8th and rent your copy of Escape Room. Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)