The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
No Escape might be the name of that God awful, xenophobic Owen Wilson thriller that came out a few years ago, but it turns out that it’s also the name of an equally terrible blatant Escape Room rip-off that comes out this week. What if an influencer went to a different country and made a total arse of themselves? Well, you’d probably find way better examples - and even more entertaining ones - on Logan Paul’s YouTube channel.
Director Will Wernick clearly has a thing for Escape Rooms. Not only did he direct his own film titled Escape Room (no relation to Adam Robitel’s aforementioned theatrically released version), but he owns a production company called Escape Productions. This film also revolves around an Escape Room, though admittedly our characters don’t spend the entire film there. More on that later.
Throughout their careers, Spielberg and Scorcese have made several films that were thematically, tonally, and even visually similar, so I’m not saying that it’s bad to be a bit repetitive with your style. What I am saying is that if you do it back to back like Wernick does, especially so early in your career, it looks like you’ve only got one kind of story to tell.
If I’m being honest, the direction in No Escape is actually okay. There are some solid suspenseful sequences, but there’s nothing new or noteworthy that I can say will blow people away. Most might consider it to be the average horror film, but the fact that the director’s made this type of film before really makes it a little less than average.
The film revolves around a young social media influencer who, to celebrate his 10 year anniversary of being obnoxiously adventurous, decides to go overseas with some of his closest friends. There, he’s invited to participate in an Escape Room uniquely customized for him. What starts off as a game though turns into a race against time to find his friends and survive, as it’s revealed that the people who’ve invited him there want him dead.
Even if you remove the Escape Room from the plot, the whole “tourists tormented abroad” story has definitely been told before, particularly with Hostel. And while the characters don’t spend the entire time at the Escape Room - they’re removed to a second location halfway through the film - they’re still equally oppressed.
This film is as unoriginal as horror films get, and it does drag as a result. More often than not, I found myself very bored, especially with the puzzles that our characters have to solve to save each other. One of the puzzles actually involves pouring water in and out of giant jugs. It’s a sequence that literally drained any hopes I had of the film getting any better.
The only thing I almost admired about it was the similarities it begins to explore between social media influencers and murderers. Both express their vanity and desire for attention in a different way. I say “begins” because there’s plenty of room made for that discussion, and for a while it seems that’s what the film is going for, but it ultimately invests in its own vain desire to be a lot smarter than it is.
Now, there is a twist at the very end of the film, but it’s not good. Without spoiling too much, it’s a twist that you could tell the writers probably thought was so clever. It attempts to pull the rug right out from underneath you to try and mess with your head. Unfortunately, for anyone who actually pays attention to the story, it won’t make sense.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Keegan Allen plays our main character, and he’s fine here. I think he does a pretty good job at emulating the behavior that makes influencers universally unbearable, but his performance won’t stick with you past the film’s 88 minute runtime.
The only actor that I recognized in this film was Denzel Whitaker (Black Panther, and the second generation of All That for real OGs), and while he’s not the main character he’s honestly the only one who seems believable. He plays our main character’s best friend, who he hasn’t seen in years and, who shows up to join him for the celebration. Everyone else in this film is either annoying, over the top, unbelievable, or all of the above, especially when they are killed off.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
No Escape’s Appeal Is Superficial
If I’m being honest, for a subpar horror film, the practical effects were still pretty impressive. There’s a scene where one of our characters has to find a key in a dead person’s stomach, but despite looking like it was ripped straight out of the Saw franchise, it looks incredibly believable.
And I know I mentioned how dull some of the puzzles were before, but a lot of the traps attached to them, looked very lazily put together. Everyone essentially gets put in an old school torture device. While it is suspenseful to see them squirm in them, the traps themselves are nowhere near as exciting as they’re hyped up to be or as we’ve seen in other films.
No Escape (2020) | VOD
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
While the score is forgettable, I believe the film owes a lot of its suspense to its sound design.There’s this one scene where a character falls down an elevator shaft, and instead of hearing the roaring thud when the body hits the base, the film cuts to silence. It’s easily one of the film’s most memorable moments because of the sound - or lack thereof, but it’s also an example of just how effective this film could really be if it was more consistent with its effort.
Like the social media influencers it revolves around - and some that it clearly draws inspiration from - all of No Escape’s appeal is superficial. While it may be bloody, it’s just a frustratingly bad and bland rip-off of much better psychological horror thrillers such as the aforementioned Escape Room, Hostel, and Saw. Do yourself a favor and skip this film, because the regret you’ll feel after watching it is honestly the only inescapable thing about it.