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Film / Escape Room

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Escape Room is a 2019 psychological thriller inspired by the Saw franchise. It released on January 4, 2019.

Six strangers, each the sole survivor of various horrific disasters, are invited to test their wits against an immersive escape room in downtown Chicago. They soon learn that the rooms contain deadly traps and that they are being watched by a sadistic unseen "game master,” and must work together to overcome the trials of each room or suffer the consequences.

A sequel, imaginatively called Escape Room 2, is set to release in 2020.


This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The price for failing to figure out the escape puzzles is death.
  • Accidental Murder:
    • In the hospital room, because of a clue that an optimal heart rate will open the way out, Jason defibrillates Michael in hopes of artificially raising his heart rate. Unfortunately the clue actually meant the heart rate had to be lowered instead, so Jason just ends up accidentally killing Michael.
    • Likewise, Ben didn't intend to kill Jason in their scuffle over the antidote, only pushing his head into a corner inadvertently.
  • All for Nothing: Unfortunately, death is the prize for winning.
  • Always Save the Girl: Minor example, but in the very first escape room where the heat has been turned up to fatal levels, Danny tells Zoey to hurry up and escape the room, even though this will decrease Danny's own chances of survival. Ben accuses Danny of only letting Zoey go first as a ploy to get female attention. Danny is nonplussed by the accusation; the movie leaves it ambiguous whether Ben is correct or whether Danny was legitimately being nice.
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  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with Zoey and Ben preparing to go after the shadowy organization that created the escape rooms, while the organization themselves prepare for their arrival.
  • And You Thought It Was a Game: When the cast signs up for the escape rooms, they are taken to a waiting room under the impression that they're just going to be playing a game and will win $10000 if they win. Then the waiting room not only turns out to be the first escape room, it almost kills them with real heat and flames. This causes everyone to realize that these escape rooms are fatal—except Danny, who thinks it's just a more immersive game than usual, since everyone actually has made it out of this particular room alive. Then Danny dies in the icy cold room, which really drives home that this isn't just a game.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Danny is Indian and a dorky escape room enthusiast who the other cast members mock for his presumed lack of success with the opposite sex.
  • Asshole Victim: The Game Master, as well as Jason by the time his role in the film is done.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The icy cold room at first appears easier than the heater room before it, since while the group is in danger of catching hypothermia if they stay in this room too long, at least there are no devices artificially changing the temperature this time, so there is apparently no time limit. Then it turns out the real threat comes from the ice beneath their feet, since it's loaded with landmine-type explosives to make random - or not so random, in Danny's case - holes in it.
  • Big Bad: The game-master, though he just designs the games; the organization he works for is the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The game-master tries to strangle Ben to death so Ben won't talk about the escape rooms to the outside world. Then Zoey arrives and saves him, having earlier stolen a gun from the cleanup crew.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The various escape rooms seen in the film should not all be able to fit into a single building in downtown Chicago, but Minos Escape Rooms makes it happen, somehow. Not to mention, when Amanda arrives at the Minos building she gets off at the third floor; but when she makes her Heroic Sacrifice and falls to her death from the 8Ball bar room, her scream makes it sound like she's falling a lot further than three floors, though there could be basement levels as well.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Played with. Indian nerd Danny is the first player to die, while Jason is the second-to-last victim.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The ending reveals that Ben and Zoey’s flight to New York itself is an escape room trap, giving them only a 4% chance of survival.
  • Born Lucky: Appears to be the game masters’ assessment of Ben, since his survival during his own accident was the most luck-based, hence he was given the worst odds of survival. They’re the player who ends up “winning.”
  • Breather Episode: The second room lacks any danger that we get to see in the brief time it takes the protagonists to solve it, being protected by two very simple lock puzzles.
  • Bring It: The Minos logo is itself a puzzle whose solution gives the exact latitude and longitude of their headquarters in New York, inviting Zoey and Ben to come confront them. The final scene of the film is them being delighted at the prospect, declaring "let's play again!"
  • Cassandra Truth: The police don't believe Zoey's story about the escape room, since all evidence has been removed from the building and the only other corroborating witness was found with illegal drugs in his system.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Zoey launches up covered in sweat from her nightmare about the plane crash she survived. Based on her roommate's reaction, this wasn't the first time it's happened.
  • Character Development: Zoey begins the movie as shy and timid, and in the very first escape room she's the one who accidentally turns on the heat. But as the movie goes on she becomes much bolder and much more competent at finding clues, even offering encouragement to the others. She even fakes her own death to trick the cleanup crew into arriving so she can steal a gun from them, she saves Ben's life from the game-master, and at the end of the movie she insists on going after the organization behind the game because she's "done running."
    • Ben begins the movie as an unkempt, depressed alcoholic unable to even get a promotion at his grocery store job to the checkout counter (Ben admits he has 'poor customer service skills'). He not only takes several levels of kindness during the game, but despite being given the lowest odds of survival, Ben is the one who wins the escape room in the traditional manner. When he meets up with Zoey at the end of the movie, he's cleaned up, seems to have quit drinking, mentions seeing a therapist, and has just been promoted to Assistant Manager of Sales at his new job at a pet food company. He also agrees to join Zoey in her quest to go after the organization behind the game.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ben's flask, which enables Ben and Danny to escape the oven room, by using the contents to replace the water Amanda drunk, and thus weigh down all six coasters to keep the hatch open. Averted with Ben's lighter; he tosses Danny his lighter so the others can use it to melt the ice around the key to the door out. But as soon as Danny catches it, the GM explodes the ice underneath Danny, killing him, so the lighter can't be used.
  • Clarke's Third Law: The game masters are able to do nigh-impossible things with the technology at their disposal, all for the sake of their escape rooms.
  • Cleanup Crew: Late in the movie, one is shown clearing out the completed rooms. And are presumably the ones responsible for the building being completely emptied out by the time Zoey leads the police there.
  • Death Glare: Amanda gives Ben one when he starts to claim her military service could be cause for suspecting her of running the deadly game. He only mumbles out the rest of the sentence.
  • Disney Death: Zoey seems to have suffocated in the hospital room, but used an oxygen mask to survive.
  • Dramatic Irony: Before the plot gets rolling, Amanda responds to Ben eyeing her cigarette with "it's gonna kill me, I know" before they head into the escape room. Viewers know she was referring to the wrong thing in that sentence.
  • Dwindling Party: After the first room, one person dies per room.
  • Faking the Dead: Zoey apparently goes crazy in the hospital room, attacking the walls instead of escaping with Ben and Jason, so she is left to apparently die of carbon monoxide poisoning. It turns out that there was an oxygen mask nearby she could use to avoid being poisoned, but she intentionally let the people watching the escape rooms think she was dead so they would arrive to clean up evidence. Then she knocks them out and steals a gun.
  • Fingore: narrowly averted. In the icy cold room, the key to the door out is frozen in a large block of ice. Once the attempt to use Ben's lighter is foiled (by Danny being dropped through the ice while holding it) the group need to use body heat - starting with their hands - to melt the ice. Surprisingly, none of the group suffer ice burns, chilblains or frostbite from doing so.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • When Ben finds the hallucinogen antidote and the label that it only has one dose, implying they're about to have to fight over it, he doesn't even get a chance to tell Jason the situation before Jason tackles him for it.
    • Zoey's oxygen mask setup is shown and commented on by the cleanup crew seconds before she gets up and attacks them.
    • We get a shot of the wood shard embedded in Ben's leg shortly before he uses it to defend himself from the game master.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Amanda arrives at the Minos building, we get a look at her driver's license, which gives her address as 5063 Camp Butler Rd, Springfield Il. This is the address to the Camp Butler national cemetery.
    • The first room's magazines all portray deadly fires, foreshadowing the room's hazard.
    • In the freezing room, the movie emphasizes Jason taking notice of Zoey wearing the only jacket available, and later he insists on wearing it. Guess what really happened the last time Jason and another person had only one jacket available.
    • Despite Jason's friend being described as suffering from the symptoms of hypothermia, he is the one depicted wearing the coat, not Jason.
    • When Ben is getting chewed out by the reminding members of the group for indirectly causing Danny's death in Room 2, he defends himself by pointing out how all of them are just as bad in different ways. When he gets to Jason, he claims he's comes off like American Psycho. He is more right then he realizes. And while Jason being just as bad as Patrick Batman is debatable, its clear that he murdered his roommate and took his red jacket to survive that night when they were stranded at sea in the cold.
    • The casualness with which the scoreboard changes to reflect Ben escaping the game master, Zoey reappearing, and the game master's death indicates that Minos never truly lost control of the situation.
    • A couple of clues mention a Dr. Wootan Yu. Zoey realizes upon returning that this was an anagram for "no way out", foreshadowing in-universe that the game wasn't meant to be escaped.
  • Fission Mailed: When Ben has to use a code to unlock a door to prevent the library walls from crushing him to death, when this scene is played at the beginning of the movie the code apparently doesn't work, and we cut to the opening credits as Ben is about to be crushed. When we see this scene again later in the movie, it turns out the code actually did work, it just unlocked the fireplace instead, so Ben has to crawl into the fireplace to escape the crushing wall, and the fireplace turns out to be the real way out.
  • He Knows Too Much: The victor of the games is usually executed for this reason. However, after Ben and Zoey escape, they cover up the evidence effective and leave them alive for round 2.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the "upside-down pool room", Amanda intentionally lets herself fall to her death in order to retrieve the 8-ball door knob and toss it to the party, so the party won't spend precious minutes trying to save her.
  • Hidden Villain: The people responsible for the game. While the game master appears after Ben escapes the final room, his superior is only ever shown as a shadowy figure on screens, with a digitally distorted voice.
  • Hologram: Used in the winter room for the illusion of an open sky and in the plane simulation for designing the puzzle Ben and Zoey will face on their flight to New York City.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: The hologram fizzles and glitches temporarily when Danny touches it.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with Ben alone in the final room, before flashing back three days to when the players first received their invitations to the game.
  • Irony: None of the players died in the rooms designed with them in mind.
  • Karma Houdini: Minos escapes the film unscathed except for losing a couple of staff and the cost of cleanup and coverup. While Ben and Zoey intend to remedy this, Minos' opening shot in "round 2" is one they calculate to have a 4% chance of survival.
  • Kick the Dog: Beyond the obvious of putting them in a death trap, tailoring the rooms to play off of each player's trauma is a cruel touch that a few of the players non-verbally acknowledge as such. The game master even asserts that Ben's drunk driving accident makes him Not So Different!
  • Kill ’Em All: Subverted. While Minos would have liked to kill everyone involved in the escape room, Ben and Zoey survive the ordeal. But then, there’s always that plane ride at the end...
  • Magical Defibrillator: Completely averted, and perhaps even inverted, as the EKG in the hospital puzzle is used to kill one of the players.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: How the people behind the game cover up the deaths of anyone who doesn't survive it. Which is supposed to be all of them.
  • Meaningful Name: Minos Escape Rooms, after the Greek king who commissioned the Labyrinth that kept the Minotaur imprisioned. Turns out this Labyrinth is just as deadly, too.
  • Mind Screw: The seizure-inducing second-to-last room, where the players are poisoned with a contact hallucinogen, and must find an antidote before losing their minds.
    • Many of the escape rooms are this, to an extent, especially the snow-covered cabin and the 8-Ball Room.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ben is not happy when he inadvertently causes Danny’s death.
  • Nerves of Steel: Jason is much more calm and collected than the rest of the players. This isn't the first time he's been in a deadly situation where survival was in his own hands.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Ben killing the game master removes a key piece of evidence that could have helped a police investigation. The sentence of Zoey's that the gunshot cut off might even have been her telling him not to.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Ben is accused of being the game master, he endears himself to the others by accusing each of them in turn.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: In the hospital room, because of a clue that the optimal EKG rate will open the way out, Jason defibrillates Michael in order to artificially raise his heart rate. Not only does this accidentally kill Michael, but it turns out what actually opens the escape route is a low heart rate instead of a high one. The correct solution is for Jason to attach the electrodes to himself, and then allow himself to be poisoned just enough to lower his heart rate and open the escape route.
  • Not So Different: The game master asserts that Ben accidentally killing his friends while driving drunk gives him no room to call the game master a psychopath for putting people through torturous death games. Really.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The flashbacks to Jason and his friend stuck on their capsized boat, and how he's the one who managed to survive.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Michael suggests trying the code 1234 on the 8ball barroom's lockbox, just to rule it out. It doesn't work.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Not only do the rooms play into each of the players' traumas, but they are designed with their knowledge and capabilities in mind as well, such as Ben's knowledge of sign language and Jason being able to operate an EKG.
  • Reality Ensues: A two-parter; Danny becomes very unpopular for not realizing that joking around about a life-or-death situation is probably not an ideal course of action. Then Ben gets a reality check that being a dick for no reason during said situation has consequences. Lethal ones, in poor Danny’s case. Ben, at least, gets better after his mistake.
  • Rewatch Bonus: with the added bonus that you'll only see it if you watch the extra scenes on the DVD/bluray release. In the first room, Amanda finds and shudders at an article with the headline "Five dead in fire". When Ben talks to the Game Master after escaping the labyrinth, the GM remarks that one of the previous games featured college athletes. During the penultimate scene, Zoey shows Ben fake articles that detail how Danny, Amanda, Mike and Jason 'died'. On the dvd/bluray, the alternative opening shows four college soccer players and their coach in a spanish-speaking country, who don't manage to get out of the first room before the oven dial in the door flicks to 'broil' and the chandelier sets the entire room on fire.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Danny, the escape room enthusiast who has done lots of these puzzles before, is the very first fatality, driving home to the audience that these escape rooms are genuinely fatal.
  • Schmuck Bait: In a room containing magazines all portraying deadly fires and books about burning, the players are subtly invited to turn the oven dial beneath the broken door handle to turn the room into a literal oven. Similarly, the water fountain that player's would naturally be tempted to drink from to deal with the heat is necessary to get everyone out alive (unless you snuck in a hip flask).
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Mike dies when Jason uses a defibrillator on him, believing that a high heart rate will open the door to the next room...but because a low rate was what was required, Mike's death was ultimately meaningless.
  • Serial Escalation: Not the rooms themselves, which don't necessarily follow a linear difficulty progression, but the next "puzzle room" Ben and Zoey face will be the passenger jet that's operating the MIA-NYC flight they're booked on.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Amanda turns out to be a former soldier who survived an explosion in Iraq, but that explosion killed everyone else in her unit; only Amanda survived. Amanda periodically experiences PTSD symptoms because of this, most notably in the escape vent that leads out of the first escape room, where Amanda briefly freezes and has to be talked into continuing forward by Zoey.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The players are watched at all times by the whoever is running the game. Zoey’s gambit in the hospital room is dependent on removing said asset from play.
  • The Social Darwinist: Jason has mild shades of this, as every time someone dies, he encourages just quickly moving on and surviving instead of taking time to mourn. Also, while he initially tells the party that his college roommate just swam off and was never seen again after their boat overturned, Ben later figures out that Jason actually murdered his roommate so he could survive using the only jacket they had between them.
  • Sole Survivor: Each of the players is the sole survivor of a horrific accident. It turns out that this is why they were all chosen — the people behind the game want to see whether it was luck or skill which enabled this, and which of them is the most capable survivor. To be more specific:
    • Amanda was a soldier in Iraq, but an IED explosion killed almost her entire unit; only Amanda survived the blast.
    • Ben was driving drunk in order to take his friends out on a joyride, but they got into a car accident that killed all of his friends, with only Ben himself surviving the accident.
    • Danny is the only survivor of carbon monoxide poisoning that killed his entire family.
    • Jason and his college roommate's boat overturned while in the middle of the ocean; only Jason survived between the two, apparently because his college roommate swam off towards land that wasn't there. But then Ben realizes later that this is a lie; Jason actually murdered his college roommate so he could use their shared jacket to survive.
    • Michael and his fellow miners were trapped in a cave-in; Michael had to listen to his fellow miners suffocate, with only Michael himself being successfully pulled out of the cave-in.
    • Zoey was in a plane that crashed, with the crash killing everyone else aboard; only Zoey survived.
      • Averted at the end, when Ben initially seems to be the only survivor of the party, before Zoey reveals she was Faking the Dead just in time to save him.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted Trope. Ben mentions he has been getting therapy to deal with his ordeal in the escape room.
  • There Can Be Only One: The seizure/hallucinogen room is designed to invoke this. While the players are free to proceed through the hatch immediately after opening it, they're stuck with the severely debilitating effects of the hallucinogen, and there is only a single dose of the antidote available, which all but ensures that a fight will ensue among the remaining players for that one dose.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: When the Cleanup Crew reach the hospital room, they see an oxygen mask hooked up to an outlet and wonder what Zoey was trying to do. The Not Quite Dead Zoey then says "Breathe, bitch!" before attacking them.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Zoey begins the movie very shy and timid, but becomes much more bold as the movie goes on, even successfully hatching a plan to trick the game-master into thinking she's dead so she can steal a gun from the cleanup crew.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ben is initially abrasive, and he contributes to Danny's death, though not on purpose, when he refuses to hand over a lighter and Danny falls through the ice trying to retrieve it. However, Ben gradually becomes nicer as the movie goes on, and he even tells off Jason for his comparatively more callous attitude.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Only a minor example, but the trailer for this movie shows in advance that the first escape room locks everyone inside and turns up the heat to levels that will be fatal if they don't get out, and it shows in advance that the entire party escapes this particular room alive (though the trailer didn't show specific details like the exact solution, which involves pressing down coasters to open the escape route, nor did the trailer show that the chandelier is also fatal and will blast fire into the room if they're too slow). Also, the trailer showed in advance that one of the escape rooms is icy cold, but didn't show in advance that Danny dies in this room.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jason lies regarding the exact details of his near death experience on the boat, which is reflected by the flashback having a key discrepancy in who is wearing the coat.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Two female characters. One's a scarred Iraqi war vet, the other's a quiet nerd in a sweater. Guess which one dies. Hint: The quiet girl has her face on the movie poster.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: In the final room, Ben is forced to unlock a door before the walls of a library crush him to death. When this scene is shown at the beginning of the movie, the code apparently doesn't work, and it looks like Ben will be killed—but when the movie plays this scene again in its proper chronological order as the final room, it turns out the code did work, it just unlocked the fireplace instead of the door. The fireplace is the real escape route; Ben is able to escape the crushing wall by crawling into the fireplace.
  • Warmup Boss: The very first escape room is both a literal and figurative example; everyone is locked in a room with the heat constantly being turned up, and they'll all be incinerated if they don't escape. However, the solution to this room is comparatively easy compared to the puzzles later on, the group just has to keep coasters pressed down to keep the escape vent open. Also, as in the trailer, everyone manages to escape this room alive.
  • Win to Exit: Naturally, this is how the escape rooms work. Except once you've made it through all of them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: While the first room (the oven) clearly played into Amanda's burns, and the frozen room clearly played into Jason surviving hypothermia, there's little to no indication who the other rooms were meant to represent. While the frozen room's cabin could reference Ben's car crash, so could the 8-ball bar (as he was driving drunk). The hospital set referenced all six players. While the psychedelic room might be a reference to Danny surviving carbon monoxide poisoning note , there's no indication of who the library represented, as Mike survived a mine cavein and Zoey survived an airplane crash.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In the icy cold room, Ben tosses his lighter onto the ice instead of just giving it to Danny, and this indirectly results in Danny's death because Danny falls through a hole in the ice while trying to retrieve it. The rest of the party chews Ben out over this, and to his credit Ben is torn up with guilt and admits he was just "being an asshole". Though then the party goes too far when they jump to the conclusion that Ben must be the game master.
    • Ben gets a moment of this later on, as he calls out Jason for his callousness toward the other players, and especially for killing Mike.
  • The World's Expert on Getting Killed: Danny, the escape room enthusiast who has completed countless other such puzzles previously, is the first to die.

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