ESCAPE THE FIELD movie poster | ©2022 Lionsgate

ESCAPE THE FIELD movie poster | ©2022 Lionsgate

Rating: R
Stars: Jordan Claire Robbins, Theo Rossi, Tahirah Sharif, Julian Feder, Elena Juatco, Shane West
Writers: Emerson Moore and Joshua Dobkin & Sean Wathen
Director: Emerson Moore
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: May 6, 2022

ESCAPE THE FIELD takes the notion of an escape room – strangers trying to work out clues – and stages it in a huge cornfield.

For starters, we have to admire the budgetary ingenuity of director Emerson Moore, his co-writers Joshua Dobkin & Sean Wathen, and their filmmaking team. The settings in ESCAPE THE FIELD consist of the cornfield, some dirt paths between the huge corn stalks, and eventually a few sets of metal sheds and doors. In the narrative, the characters are covering great distances, but in production terms, they could simply be walking in front of the same corn stalks and along the same dirt paths. Locations don’t come much more versatile or affordable.

We open with Sam (Jordan Claire Robbins), a hospital doctor in scrubs who wakes up alone in a circular clearing in the field. Beside her, she finds a revolver and a few bullets.

Almost immediately, Tyler (Theo Rossi) shows up. At first, Sam thinks he may be responsible for her predicament, but she eventually comes to believe Tyler’s story – he, too, woke up in the field, with no idea how he got there.

The sound of voices leads them to more people who also seem baffled as to where they are, how they got here, why they’re here, and how to leave. Each of them woke up in the field, with some item on the ground next to them. The group includes hot-tempered Ryan (Shane West), amiable Denise (Elena Juatco), prep school student Ethan (Julian Feder), and English coder Cameron (Tahirah Sharif).

As if all the questions, trust problems, thirst, and hunger aren’t enough, it becomes clear there’s a homicidal predator stalking them.

ESCAPE THE FIELD fulfills its horror duties well enough, with jump scares, moderate gore, and protagonists we actually like. The clues are intelligently placed.

However, the nature of the clues makes it extremely difficult (or perhaps outright impossible) for the audience to play along at home. We get some explanation of what is probably going on here, but not the kind of “aha” moment the build-up leads us to expect and want. For the amount of time the characters express curiosity about what they’re being subjected to, it feels like they and we deserve something a bit more conclusive by the finale.

Robbins and Rossi are sympathetic, West brings shadings to his troubled Ryan, and Sharif finds nuance in Cameron. Juatco and Feder are fine in less-detailed roles.

On the one hand, ESCAPE THE FIELD doesn’t wholly satisfy as a mystery. On the other hand, it merits applause simply for getting a great deal of bang for its bucks.

There is a mid-end credits sequence that doesn’t answer the larger questions, but puts periods on a couple of plot threads.

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