ESCAPE: PUZZLE OF FEAR * USA 2020 Dir: J. Jones. 83 mins
Still struggling with her traumatic past, hotshot agent Matt Blake (Tommy Nash) and his girlfriend Brittany (Aubrey Reynolds) decide to get together with their friends Tyler (Omar Gooding) and Angela (Naina Michaud) for a fun get-together which begins to trigger Brittany’s past. Playing it off, she agrees to follow them on a trip down to a local escape room where they’re thrust into a game with several other people for what seems like a fun yet spooky time. However, the longer they play the more the chosen scenario seems to remind her of the past she has struggled to suppress and soon begins to cause the group to have trouble distinguishing the game from reality. As the game brings along far more sinister secrets than expected, the groups’ true intentions come out and bring about a deadlier turn than they ever imagined.
For the most part, “Escape: Puzzle of Fear” was highly underwhelming without much to like. Most of that is due to the insufferable cast, as Matt is a carefree, reckless douchebag with deplorable boyfriend qualities, his girlfriend Brittany is a meek pushover who’s clearly unable to recognize she’s not a part of a respectful relationship, and their friends Tyler and Angela are just flat and boring. This unappealing group of people that we’re forced to be around doesn’t endear anyone as a sympathetic figure to be around, and it takes so long to get to the actual escape room in the premise that it’s inherently dull at times. That section of the film does have some more fun for it, but even that falls flat with the obviousness of them not being in real danger with all the threats being psychological in origin rather than physical. This gets quite confusing as to what’s going on or the purpose of the escape room because of this weird game, and when it’s turned into a complex revenge plot it crosses over into the ludicrous realm without anything else coming back to save it.
Review by Don Anelli