No Escape (alternatively titled Follow Me) is the latest genre film to set its sights on our modern social media-obsessed culture (this year alone featured the accomplished satire Spree and the less successful heist thriller Infamous). Meshing a bevy of intriguing aspirations, writer/director Will Wernick creates an unsatisfactory concoction stuck in filmmaking autopilot.
No Escape follows Cole (Keegan Allen), a social media star who has spent the last decade vlogging his day-to-day adventures. To celebrate his 10-year landmark, Cole and his friends travel to Moscow to experience a personalized escape room, though this new endeavor may present an unknown danger to Cole’s picturesque image.
With genre horror films releasing at a prevalent clip, filmmakers must work diligently to find inventive new angles to explore horror’s machinations. While the social media flavor adds some intriguing wrinkles to the table (a semi-interesting exploration of the different ways personalities act on and off camera), Wernick’s effort uses these concepts as mere window dressing to his standard-issue affair.
The script fails to infuse a substantive throughline between its poser protagonist and the horrors he’s subjected too, missing a prime opportunity to comment on social media users’ jaded relationship with horrific violence. It doesn’t help that the workmanlike cast is straddled with blandly conceived roles, utilizing clunky dialogue that often over-explains the character’s whims and desires. Wernick never decides if we should be vilifying Cole for his vapid actions or sympathize with his over-exposed lifestyle, opting for a murky middle ground that doesn’t satisfy either angle.
All could be forgiven if No Escape generated some eerie scares, yet this is the department Wernick struggles the most. Aping the grimy setting and trap-oriented approach of Saw isn’t necessarily a bad idea on paper. The issues arise from the lack of creativity brought to the screen, utilizing cheap, predictable setpieces that do little to inspire dread. Saw was able to hide its inexpensive assets by pushing the boundaries of the torture porn subgenre. No Escape seems pleased to operate in the shadow of superior films, complacently going through the motions with little panache.
A “gotcha” twist ending does bring some fun to the table, though it can’t hide No Escape’s trite, bargain bin execution.
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