Monday, March 22, 2021

Pretty Little Vloggers

The last time I watched a movie about hot young 20somethings who find themselves in a horror movie set in Moscow, I ended up with beyond dreadful, still infuriating The Darkest Hour. Still, my rule of covering every horror movie starring a Pretty Little Liars alumni is not limited to the ladies, so with Keegan Allen (aka Toby, THE WORST) headlining No Escape, I clicked my Hulu button and dove in.

Quick Plot: Cole is celebrating 10 years as a social media influencer (which I would think would make him something of a senior citizen in that world) by heading to Moscow with his hip pals. A night partying goes awry when some very tough-looking Muscovites make threatening moves on Cole's girlfriend Erin. Guns are drawn, threats in different languages made, but Cole's fan/Russian escort Alexei is able to diffuse the situation cleanly enough. 

The next day, Cole finds out his big anniversary vlog will be an elaborate escape room (not shocking considering writer/director Will Wernick is the same guy behind the OTHER, non-theatrical horror movie about escape rooms called Escape Room). He's disappointed at first, but his pals assure him this will be well-worth the trip.

Now is the time during this review where I instruct you to take out your Saw bingo card, because who boy do we have some references to check. Cole awakens in a room with a sleeping body and instructions to carve into his guts to remove a key that will help free his friends who are all trapped in various torture devies (that really do feel like they were purchased at a discount from Lionsgate's last yard sale). 

The escape room aspect goes away rather quickly as the action shifts to a more straightforward "trapped in an abandoned Russian prison with homicidal dark web vloggers who have seen the Hostel series way too many times" slasher. It's bloody. It's mean. And yes, there's a twist. 

No Escape is one of those movies that I by no means didn't like, but that I'll have an incredibly difficult time remembering that I ever sat down and spent 90 minutes with it. Yes, it feels incredibly beholden to a number of 21st century horror films already mentioned here, and nothing it does is particularly better than any of them. 

But hey: a perfectly slick and mediocre horror movie is still something I enjoy watching, and you know what? I had fun with this. It's basically what I expected, very little more, and sometimes, that's more than satisfying for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

High Points
As much as Cole is painted as your pretty typical pretty boy millennial, he makes an incredibly important and selfless choice when the going gets tough that helps to earn some audience investment into his fate

Low Points
Compared to something like #Horror or the very underrated Spree, No Escape's attempts to weave its social media graphics into the greater film style feels fairly lazy

Lessons Learned
There's really one overwhelming lesson to take from No Escape, but to explain it would be a spoiler. You can probably figure it out as the film nears its conclusion, but No Escape's moral is so blinding (and when you think back on the film, should have been VERY CLEAR to a lot of its characters) that I simply didn't learn anything else!

There are better horror movies about escape rooms (and I mean the shockingly delightful Escape Room) and attractive ugly Americans being served bloody lessons overseas, but No Escape isn't the worst unremarkable horror movie to pass the time. It's dumb, but did you expect much more?

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