With Escape Room: Tournament of Champions releasing in just two days, we’d like to take a look at the first Escape Room movie. More specifically, we want to look at the escape rooms that were shown in the movie.
This article contains spoilers.
Six people are summoned together on the premise of playing an escape room. The players are: Danny, an escape room enthusiast; Zoey, a physics student; Ben, a grocery store stocker; Jason, a stockbroker; Amanda, a war veteran; and Mike, a former miner.
The escape room company, Minos, promises a $10,000 prize to the winner. However, the challenge was actually an elaborate death trap. Each puzzle room subjected the players to different dangers. Some elements of the rooms reflect elements from the players’ pasts, as each of them were the sole survivors of tragic events. The only way to escape was to solve the puzzles.
The players met in the lobby and discovered that it was the first puzzle. Clues and locks were scattered throughout the room. When Ben tried to open the door, the handle broke off and revealed an oven dial. Mike found a screwdriver hidden in a book, Fahrenheit 451, which gave Zoey a clue about the oven dial. Turning the oven dial to 451 activated heating coils in the room, turning it into a giant oven. Under a fake fire extinguisher, the players found a key, which unlocked a partition to the secretary office. In the secretary office, the players found a mannequin and a phone. The phone played a message telling them, “Follow all posted rules.” This led Zoey to a placard that instructed her to use the coasters on the table. Pressing the coasters opened a hidden door to the next room. They were able to weigh the coasters down with water from a cooler, and everyone escaped.
The coaster mechanism to open the secret door was an interesting one and a promising start to the movie. Hidden doors and subtle clues are part of what makes escape rooms fun. However, the door handle didn’t seem connected to anything beyond activating the oven trap. It’s entirely possible that they could have avoided the heat altogether if the placard with the coaster rule had been found sooner. Someone could also have served themselves water and weighed a coaster down by accident to reveal the trick. Also, it may have been easier to weigh the coasters down with books on top of the cups, rather than scrambling for water or using their feet and hands.
Using the screwdriver from the book, the players open a grate into a small cabin. The cabin’s exit is held shut with a padlock and a seven-letter word lock. The padlock key is easy to find. A festive sign reading “You’ll go down in history” leads them to the name “Rudolph,” which opens the word lock. The cabin automatically locks behind them once they exit, and they find themselves in a snowy forest. As they walk across a frozen pond, the ice breaks beneath their feet to reveal a fishing hole. They also find a box that contains a jacket with a compass and some other items. Mike finds a fishing rod and Zoey uses the compass to find a magnet. They attach the magnet to a compass and drop the line into the hole. The magnet catches something and they reel in a block of ice in a metal frame. Inside the ice is the key to the next room. During a brief argument, Danny falls through the ice and gets trapped. He dies and the remaining players attempt to melt the ice block by warming it with their hands. Once the ice melts enough, they head into the next room.
Getting the key from the ice was possibly the most complex part of the room, but it was more of an endurance test than a puzzle. Having the compass locate the magnet was an interesting trick. Unfortunately, while the room itself was grand in scale, its overall puzzle value was lacking.
The pool hall
This room was staged entirely upside-down, with a floor that gradually fell away as the remaining players progressed. The players had to climb around the edges of the room and up the walls to avoid falling to their deaths. One wall had a door with no doorknob. Another had a sliding tile puzzle made of vinyl record covers. Amanda climbed up and found a lock box that contained the 8-ball doorknob. Once the sliding tile puzzle was completed, they used it and the inverted pool table to determine the combination. Amanda tried to climb over to the door, but the doorknob fell from her pocket. She jumped down to save it but wasn’t able to reach the others before the floor dropped out beneath her.
While the upside-down room was impressive, it only really had one puzzle: the sliding tile wall. It’s unclear how Zoey determined which pieces went where to get the combination in the right order. There is a chance that the players could have escaped without going through the puzzle at all. The bolt for the doorknob was sticking out and could have been turned with their bare hands. It’s surprising that no one even tried to do that.
The hospital area contained a set of hospital beds with notes on each of the players, including the ones that had already died. A video of a doctor performing heart surgery played on the television and a timer gave them five minutes to solve the room before it filled with poisonous gas. While going through the notes, the players found a set of hand x-rays that directed them to an EKG machine. With the x-rays and video clues, Jason realized that the EKG needed to be used on someone. Jason used the defibrillators on Mike until his heart rate exceeded 200 beats per minute, killing him. He then attached the EKG to himself and let his heart slow down to 50 beats per minute, which allowed them to enter the next room. Zoey, refusing to play by the rules anymore, stayed behind.
This is arguably one of the strangest of the puzzles because of one big flaw: defibrillators are used to correct an irregular heartbeat, not cause one. While it makes for good (if unrealistic) drama, as a puzzle setup it’s pretty weak.
The illusion room
The design of this room was vastly different from the others. While the other rooms were intended to look like a fairly normal space, this room was painted in black and white to create an optical illusion. The method of escape was simple enough: open a hatch and jump down. Unfortunately for the final two players, the hatch was covered in hallucinogenic poison. As the two began to hallucinate, they had to find the antidote. Ben found it in a hidden drawer and the two fought over it. Jason hit his head and died. Ben gave himself the antidote and moved to the next room.
This room was more focused on visual spectacle than puzzles. It had one hidden drawer, a death trap, and a few props that were largely ignored by the players. It seems that it was designed to be a stage for the fight scene and warped visuals, and nothing else.
The final room, also the first scene of the movie, was a library. On one wall was a maze lock. Ten numbers, 0-9, surrounded the central maze. Four numbers were needed to open the lock. Ben attempted to solve the puzzle while the walls of the library slowly closed in on him. A riddle led Ben to a book, which contained another riddle. Through the other riddle, he found four pictures that gave him the lock code. As the walls reached the end of their tracks, he managed to solve the maze lock and hide in the fireplace. The walls shut and the fireplace opened, letting him outside.
The maze lock was a very interesting puzzle, and the clues to find the answer were clever. It’s quite possibly the most “escape room-like” room in the movie, and the puzzle is not one that could have been brute forced or circumvented. If you removed the life-or-death element, the maze lock and fireplace door could be adapted into a real escape room.
Overall, for a movie about escape rooms, some of the puzzles in the rooms were a bit lacking. It’s understandable for a movie to let the rooms be a backdrop for the action, but it would have been nice if each of the rooms had more puzzle elements that fit together the way real-world escape rooms do. That said, the movie had some solid moments of tension as the clock wound down on the players.