Warning: Spoilers for Escape Room are in play. If you haven't seen the film yet, and don't want anything spoiled, bookmark this page and come back later.
The race to be the next Saw or Insidious franchise seems to be a consistently running contest, as those series are the high water marks for high frequency / generous return filmmaking. After opening this weekend, Sony's puzzle-flavored thriller Escape Room looks to be the possible heir to the throne, with an estimated $17 million opening against a $9 million budget. Watching the film, it almost feels like they knew this would happen, as there's one hell of a sequel tag included at the end.
So in the spirit of watching the contestants of Escape Room solving the challenges laid out in front of them, it's time that we take a look at the film's ending, and piece together just what happened. More importantly, we can begin to map out just where the Escape Room franchise could be headed, as it looks like we'll see the world of Minos Escape Rooms and their victims again at some point. Last call for the spoiler adverse to wait for our latest This Rotten Week to publish, as we're about to enter the room, and aren't going to be leaving until we've solved it all.
How It Ended
Of the six strangers that entered into Escape Room's big puzzle, only two got out alive: soft spoken protagonist Zoey, and scaredy cat / burnout Ben. Ben's survival comes from finishing all six rooms, while Zoey's outside-of-the-box approach to escaping the fifth room, themed after a hospital unit, puts her into an interesting position in the overall game. We see Ben leave the final puzzle, a library that requires a combination to escape its crushing walls, despite thinking he'd died in this room in the film's prologue.
Once out, Ben meets the Gamemaster behind the Minos escape room. Simply named "The Gamemaster," he congratulates Ben on winning the $10,000, and eventually fills his supposedly final contestant in on the truth of Escape Room's story. As it turns out, this escape room is one of many that Minos has been running, all to cater to their clientele of rich folks that want to see what it takes for people to survive. Previous games included savants and college athletes, but their ever-discerning tastes lead to an interesting group to be selected for this round: sole survivors.
Surprise surprise, each of the six players in Escape Room are the only people to walk away from disasters, whether they be of their own doing, or just an unlucky twist of fate. But, naturally, The Gamemaster has to kill Ben, as there can be no survivors of the escape room. It's just how it's supposed to shake out. Lucky for Ben, Zoey's insistence to find her own solution pays off. She shoots The Gamemaster, allowing Ben to free himself, take the gun that Zoey dropped, and finish their tormentor off for good.
Of course, trying to convince the authorities that such an event had happened proves impossible, as the "waiting room" the players started out in turns out to be a broken down room, with one message scrawled on the walls: "No Way Out," the solution to the anagram plaguing the entire escape room, "Wootan Yu." Months later, Zoey and Ben meet up again, reuniting after their fateful meeting for the first time. Ever the genius, Zoey has been piecing together the cover up for all of their dearly departed partners from the escape room, and has claimed to have decoded Minos Escape Room's logo to reveal another location belonging to the company.
With two plane tickets, and the pitch of a lifetime, Zoey convinces Ben to join her in taking the fight to Minos. But in one final turn, we realize that not only is there a new Gamemaster installed at Minos HQ, they're expecting Zoey and Ben's arrival -- undoubtedly to push the rematch of the century to their paying customers. And as for that flight, well it's going to be another escape room, as we see an airplane-based game tested in the Minos labs. The film ends with the image of a plane rapidly descending, with one engine on fire, and then a quick cut to black.
Who Are The Forces Behind The Escape Room
From the beginning of Escape Room, Minos Escape Rooms is set up as a company that just offers thrills of a lifetime. Every escape room promises that, so it doesn't seem all that different in the beginning. As the game wears on, though, we see that the folks at Minos aren't just talking the talk, as they are indeed walking said walk that accompanies it.
The company's strategy is simple: drop six folks into six rooms of deadly puzzles, let human nature take its course, and collect the money for access to the show, as well as any betting activity they may be running. If the previous games are anything like the one shown in Escape Room, the formula for any challenge goes as such: there's six people, each with a room designed to their own strengths and weaknesses.
In the case of the sole survivors round we saw in Escape Room, each of the survivors had a puzzle designed to trigger the memories of their moments of survival. Ideally, these players would turn on each other, sacrificing each other one after the other, until the last person standing "wins" a death at the hands of The Gamemaster.
Minos's resources are apparently limitless, especially if they can design challenges such as these with such production value. They're also an extremely private, downright shadowy organization with the ability to push and pull people into their games at will. This is particularly interesting at the end, when it appears that Zoey and Ben will be drawn into their rematch through the means of Minos designing that plane themed escape room. It's also in that moment that we see where the Escape Room franchise could be heading, should the higher ups at Sony decide to play another game.
What It Means For The Franchise
The fact that Minos is this powerful, with unlimited resources and similarly boundless imagination, means that Escape Room could indeed be the next Saw. The series has already proven that a PG-13 rating isn't an obstacle, as the film is tense and exciting without all of the grisly gore that Saw provided on a yearly basis. So setting the threshold for the potential audience at such a level means it could be extremely lucrative.
More importantly, there's a pretty vast number of rooms that can be designed, and just as many characters that can be thrown into the mix alongside Zoey and Ben. Our two returning contestants will obviously be the hook to the Escape Room franchise, alongside the sinister Minos Escape Rooms company, but there will need to be at least four new players, with rooms to match the particular theme of whatever the next round will be focused on.
Last, but not least, Sony has something they haven't had since Underworld and Resident Evil shuttered their doors: a strong female protagonist with a series of unending sequels to conquer the world throughout. The days of Seline and Alice may be over, but in young Zoey's quest to become more fearless and to cancel Minos Escape Rooms for good, the studio has a potential to continue mining something they've always had a thing for marketing.
At this point, it seems like it's only a numbers game that defines whether Escape Room will return for another round of mayhem, or if it'll be thrown onto the scrap heap of so many other pretenders to the yearly franchise throne. But should there be a demand, the series is definitely ready to take on the challenge of topping itself, and in the same style as the Saw movies, making its best content in its potential sequels.
Escape Room is in theaters now.