ESCAPE ROOM (2019)
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Julianne
The film opens with a panicked man (who we later find out is Ben (Logan Miller)) falling through a ceiling grate into an old-fashioned study. Ben finds a door with a puzzle on the wall that requires him to slide four numbers into position to open. When he moves one of the numbers on the puzzle, the wall opposite the exit begins to move towards Ben, crushing everything in its path. Ben frantically searches for clues around the room and moves the numbers on the door into position, but the wall continues to move. Ben is trapped between the two walls and his leg is punctured by a sharp stick. The film then cuts to three days earlier in Chicago, Illinois before we can see Ben’s death.
Zoey (Taylor Russell) is in a college lecture hall. Her professor asks a question that she knows the answer to, but she is too shy to speak up. After class, her professor tells her that she needs to learn to speak up and challenges her to do something that scares her over Thanksgiving break. She goes back to her dorm room and refuses to join the dorm party. As her roommate leaves for Thanksgiving break the next morning, she finds a package for Zoey outside their room. Inside is a note from her professor and a black puzzle box.
Jason (Jay Ellis) is a hotshot stock trader. He gets a call from a happy client offering him a vacation to Fiji, and he later receives a note from the client along with the same kind of black puzzle box Zoey received. Ben is a stock boy at a grocery store who is denied a promotion to cashier because his boss says it would be bad for business. As the boss leaves, he spots Ben’s flask and tells Ben to stop drinking and go make some friends. Ben seems devastated by this and his boss apologizes. The next morning, Ben arrives at work and finds a note from his boss and a black puzzle box on his workstation.
Zoey, Jason, and Ben each manage to open their puzzle boxes. Zoey figures it out on her own, Jason uses a Youtube tutorial, and Ben stumbles across the solution by accident after trying to smash the box with a hammer. Inside is a card inviting them to Minos Escape Room where the first person to escape the room will earn $10,000.
Ben stands outside the Minos building smoking when Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll) arrives. She enters the lobby and checks in with the guard who requires that she turn in her cell phone, so pictures of the room aren’t posted online. As she walks to the elevator, the guard thanks her for her service and Amanda appear perturbed. Danny (Nik Dodani) joins Amanda in the elevator. Amanda and Danny enter the waiting room where Jason, Zoey, and Mike (Tyler Labine) are already waiting. Ben joins them and the group chats while waiting for the game to start. Danny reveals that he’s been to over 90 escape rooms.
Ben gets tired of waiting for the game to start and wants to go outside and smoke. When he tries to open the door, the handle breaks off in his hand, and Danny realizes that the game has started. Where the handle broke off is now an oven dial, and the group begins searching for clues. Amanda sees that all the magazines in the room were sent to a Dr. Wootan Yu. Mike flips through the books on the shelf and finds a screwdriver in a copy of Fahrenheit 451. Zoey turns the oven dial to 451 degrees and heating panels around the room turn on and begin heating the room.
Amanda gets anxious and asks the person sitting behind a frosted glass window for a clue. Zoey realizes that the voice they keep hearing from behind the window is a recording. Jason picks up a snow globe with a sailboat inside off a shelf and looks disturbed before putting it back down. Ben takes a fire extinguisher off the wall which turns on more heating panels. The fire extinguisher is fake, but Zoey pulls the pin out and finds a key to open the frosted glass window. Inside is a mannequin holding a phone. The phone rings and Jason answers. The voice tells them to follow the rules. When Jason hangs up the phone, more heating panels turn on. As the room gets hotter, Amanda panics. Zoey gets her a glass of water from the water cooler to calm her down. Zoey notices a sign on the wall that says to use the coasters. She presses down on one of the coasters on the coffee table, and a painting on the wall moves to reveal an air duct.
Zoey figures out that all six of the coasters need to be pressed down to keep the painting from blocking the air duct. Zoey, Danny, Ben, Amanda, and Mike press the coasters down while Jason crawls into the duct. He finds a grate that leads into another room but needs the screwdriver from Mike who joins him in the duct to open the grate. Zoey tells Amanda to go next while she, Danny, and Ben hold the coasters down. Zoey figures out that they can fill the water glasses to the top using the water cooler and they will be heavy enough to hold the coasters down. Amanda panics in the duct and flashes back to crawling out of a military Humvee in the desert after an IED blast. Ben and Danny tell Zoey to go help Amanda while they fill glasses.
Zoey calms Amanda down, and they continue through the duct. Ben and Danny are only able to fill five glasses before the water cooler is empty because Amanda drank a glass earlier. Ben pulls out his flask and fills the sixth glass. Danny and Ben crawl through the duct as the room bursts into flames behind them and crawl up through the grate just before the fire blasts through the air duct. The group is now in a log cabin. Everyone thinks the game is real except for Danny who whines that he’s stuck playing with five boring people. Jason opens a lock on the front door with the key he used to open the frosted window in the waiting room, but there’s another lock that requires seven letters to open.
Mike finds a quote on the wall that says, “You’ll go down in history.” Zoey starts naming U.S. Presidents with seven letter last names but none of them open the lock. Ben notices nine antlers mounted on the wall, each with a letter below them. He flashes back to driving at night with his friends. They’re all drunk and loudly singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when Ben crashes head-on into another car. Ben realizes that the letters under the antlers are the first letters of the names of Santa’s reindeer. Ben tells them to try Rudolph and the lock opens.
The group exits the cabin which locks behind them. They are now in a snowy clearing where the ground is water that has frozen over. A thermometer reads 30 degrees, and Zoey notices the temperature slowly dropping. It appears they are outside, but Danny walks away from the cabin until he bumps into a barrier and realizes that the walls are high-tech screens designed to make it appear that they’re outside. They search for clues. Jason finds a locked door in the wall, and Amanda finds a boat with a red jacket in it. Zoey sees a carving on the side of the boat that says, “True north is a lie.” Jason seems disturbed by the jacket, and Amanda says that they’ll take turns wearing it starting with Zoey. Mike finds a fishing pole in a tree, and Ben stumbles across a fishing hole in the ice after stepping in it.
While the other five drop the fishing line into the hole to see how deep it goes, Zoey uses the compass to wander around. She notices the compass start to malfunction near a taxidermied polar bear and reaches into the bear’s mouth to find a magnet. When she rejoins the group, Jason says that it’s his turn to wear the jacket and takes it from her. Ben walks away to smoke while Mike attaches the magnet to the fishing line and drops it into the hole again. He pulls up a metal frame filled with a frozen solid block of ice with a key in the middle. The ice is too solid to break, so Danny asks Ben for his lighter to melt it. Ben throws it part way to Danny and when Danny walks over and picks it up, the ice beneath him breaks, and he falls into the water. The other five frantically search for Danny through the ice and Amanda wants to dive in after him. Mike tells her that with the current she wouldn’t make it back to the surface even if she could find Danny. Danny drowns under the ice.
Jason tells them they’ll all die of hypothermia if they don’t work together to melt the ice as the temperature continues to drop. He flashes back to sitting on the hull of an overturned boat in icy water next to another man who is wearing the same red jacket they found in the room. They take turns wearing the jacket and slowly manage to melt the ice by all putting their hands on it as the temperature in the room drops below zero. Jason puts the key in the door, but it doesn’t open. They see a door open on the other side of the room and run for it. The ice starts cracking beneath them as they run across the room, but they all make it.
The next room is a bar with a pool table, but everything in the room is upside down and bolted to the ceiling which is at least 20 feet up. Mike realizes that the eight ball is the only ball missing from the pool table. A phone attached to the pool table starts to ring, and the receiver drops down far enough for them to answer it. The voice tells them to watch their steps, and a piece of the floor falls away to reveal a 15 story drop under the room. Everyone grabs onto the walls. Amanda climbs up behind the bar where she finds a safe that requires a four-digit code.
Zoey sees a sliding puzzle on the wall and climbs to it to start solving it while another part of the floor falls. Jason climbs onto a platform next to the exit door which is missing the handle. Ben and Mike climb onto the sliding puzzle frame with Zoey while more of the floor falls away. Zoey solves the puzzle, and they realize the colors in the puzzle correspond to certain billiard balls. They give Amanda the code to open the safe and get the eight ball which will function as the door handle. The sliding puzzle frame starts to come away from the wall due to their combined weight. Zoey falls onto a section of the floor below the puzzle and is dazed by the impact. She flashes back to the inside of a crashed airplane which is upside down. She is looking up at her mom’s dead body strapped into the seat.
Jason jumps down and helps Zoey onto the platform and climbs up just before that section of the floor falls. Ben and Mike climb onto the platform with them. Amanda puts the eight ball in her pocket and jumps from the bar to the pool table where she has to use her arms to pull herself along the edge until she can get her legs up. The ball falls out of her pocket onto the last remaining section of floor and starts to roll towards the edge. Amanda jumps down, grabs the ball, and throws it to Jason just before the floor falls. She grabs the hanging phone cord, and Ben tries to reach her with a pool cue, but the cord snaps and she falls to her death. Zoey is devastated, and Ben tries to comfort her while Jason pushes ahead into the next room.
The fourth room is filled with six hospital cubicles. Zoey, Ben, Mike, and Jason each recognize the cubicles as replicas of the hospital rooms they were in after their accidents. Zoey was the sole survivor of a plane crash in Vietnam that killed her mom, Mike was the sole survivor of a mine cave-in in West Virginia that killed his brother, Ben was the sole survivor of a drunk driving accident that killed all his friends, and Jason was the sole survivor of a boat overturning in icy water. Jason says that he and his friend took turns sharing a red jacket until his friend decided to swim for help on the second day. Jason remained with the boat and was rescued on the third day, but his friend was never found. The group finds files on Amanda and Danny that tell them Amanda was the sole survivor of an IED blast in Iraq and Danny was the sole survivor of a carbon monoxide leak that killed his family. They realize the designer knows everything about them. Zoey realizes they were chosen because they are all sole survivors and whoever designed the escape rooms wanted to see which of them would ultimately survive.
A TV turns on and starts a five-minute countdown. The video shows an open heart surgery and says they need to put their hearts into it. Zoey says they should stop playing along with the game since the designer clearly wants there to be one sole survivor in the end. She starts destroying all the cameras in the room. Jason, Mike, and Ben realize that the x-rays they found spell EKG in sign language. Jason finds the EKG machine and notices canisters of poison that will be released into the room once the countdown is up. Jason thinks they need to use the EKG machine to measure a very high heart rate. Ben’s heart rate isn’t high enough, so Jason attaches the machine to Mike. While Ben tries to get Zoey to calm down and work with them, Jason convinces Mike that his heart rate needs to be higher and they need to use a defibrillator on his heart.
Jason shocks Mike twice with the paddles until his heart rate is over 200. Mike flatlines, and Ben performs CPR to try to revive him but is unsuccessful. Jason realizes the EKG also needs to measure a low heart rate before the door will open. Jason attaches the machine to himself and calms himself until his heart rate drops below 50 and the door opens. The countdown ends, and poisonous gas starts to fill the room. Ben begs Zoey to follow him and Jason out of the room, but she refuses because she is still breaking cameras and is convinced that is the solution. Jason and Ben leave, and Zoey smashes the last camera. Zoey collapses on the floor and starts foaming at the mouth.
Jason and Ben enter the fifth room which is completely covered in a black and white checkered pattern over the walls, floor, ceiling, and furniture. Ben yells at Jason for killing Mike and realizes that Jason killed his friend on the boat so he wouldn’t have to share the jacket. Jason flashes back to fighting his friend on the boat, drowning him, and letting his body drift away so Jason could use the jacket and survive. Jason tells Ben that he can’t take the moral high ground because he’s responsible for his friends dying in the car crash. Jason says that survival is the only thing that matters. Ben angrily walks away and finds a hatch in the floor. It’s too heavy to open alone, and they have to work together to open it. They get the hatch open and notice a substance on their hands from the handle. They start hallucinating and see a message under the hatch that tells them the antidote is in the room. Ben finds the antidote, but there is only one dose. Jason attacks him to get the antidote, and they fight as the floor rotates until Ben kicks Jason’s head into a table corner and he dies.
Ben uses the antidote on himself, drops down into the hatch, and kicks through a grate in the floor. This brings us to the room at the beginning of the movie. Ben is close to being crushed between the walls until he manages to squeeze sideways into the fireplace. The walls smash together, and the mantle of the fireplace breaks open the door for Ben to exit the room. Ben enters a large room filled with computers and a screen showing the six contestants, each with their faces crossed out except for his. The Gamemaster (Yorick van Wageningen) greets him and explains that the game was designed to entertain a select group of rich and powerful people. Past games have included college athletes and savants, and the people in charge wanted to test sole survivors.
Two workers in hazmat suits enter the hospital escape room where they are ordered to clear out Mike and Zoey’s bodies. They notice a breathing tube hanging from the ceiling. Zoey (who used the breathing tube to survive after destroying the cameras) attacks them from behind with an IV stand, knocks them out, steals a gun, and exits the room. Ben asks the Gamemaster if he can leave since he won the game and the Gamemaster says yes then starts to strangle him with a wire. Ben pulls the stick out of his wounded leg and stabs the Gamemaster who drops the wire. The Gamemaster climbs on top of Ben to finish choking him but looks up and notices a computer saying “system override” while the screen showing the six original contestants changes to list the Gamemaster, Ben, and Zoey as being in-play.
Zoey shoots the Gamemaster but doesn’t kill him as he runs behind some crates. While Zoey is distracted trying to wake Ben up, the Gamemaster attacks her and manages to get control of the gun. Before he can shoot her, Ben smashes him in the head with a glass container and shoots and kills him. The screen changes to show the Gamemaster’s face crossed out and Zoey and Ben listed as winners. Zoey and Ben exit the building and go to the hospital for Ben’s injuries. The police pick up Zoey from the hospital to go to the Minos building. When the police enter the building, it appears to be abandoned and falling apart. They tell Zoey they haven’t found any evidence of anything she claims went on in the building. Zoey tells them to ask Ben to corroborate her story, but they tell her that Ben’s bloodwork showed multiple drugs in his system. Zoey sees the words “No Way Out” spray painted on the wall and realizes that it is an anagram for Dr. Wootan Yu whose name appeared multiple times in different escape rooms. The police don’t believe her story and tell her they need to leave the premises.
Six months later, Zoey and Ben meet up at a cafe. Ben’s life has improved, and he’s working as a salesperson for vegan dog food. Zoey shows Ben a binder of information she’s been compiling about Minos. There are articles about the deaths of Amanda, Mike, Jason, and Danny that cover up their true place and cause of death (Danny drowned in Lake Michigan, Jason died in a motorcycle accident, Amanda died after falling during a solo rock climb, and I can’t remember what excuse they used for Mike’s death). Using the Minos logo, Zoey has also discovered the coordinates of the Minos headquarters in New York City and Ben agrees to join her when she flies there in two weeks to try to bring them down.
The film cuts to a plane in distress with one of the engines on fire. The flight attendants are frantically searching for clues to help them get into the cockpit. They get inside the cockpit but are too late to make the plane pull up before it crashes into the ground. The camera cuts away to show that the plane is actually suspended inside a warehouse and the flight attendants and passengers are employees of Minos testing out an escape room scenario. A figure in shadows appears on a screen and asks an employee what the chance of survival is. He’s told it’s only 4%. The figure tells the employee that he wants it to be more survivable since it’s no fun if the participants don’t have a chance. He reveals that he has Ben and Zoey’s flight itinerary and the scenario needs to be ready for their flight.