Review: Escape from Tomorrow

EscapeFromTomorrowIf you haven’t heard about indie sensation Escape from Tomorrow, then… well… it’s a good thing you’re reading this, but seriously you need to hit up the Internet more often.

Newcomer Randy Moore’s daring debut has been the talk of the film world since it screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The reason everyone’s so abuzz is not the quality of the film (I’ll get to that later), but because of the unique production.

The feature length sci-fi/fantasy/noir piece takes place at Disney World in Florida, and was shot there as well. The twist is that Moore and his confederates didn’t have permission from Disney.

And with good reason.

Among other things, the film suggests that the turkey legs sold at the concession stands are really emu, the Disney princesses that walk around the park are high-priced prostitutes for Asian businessmen, and that the Siemens corporation uses Epcot Center to mask nefarious experimentation on innocent park visitors.

The Escape crew filmed the whole movie on consumer-grade DSLR cameras, walking through the park posing as tourists, creatively recording audio and dialogue with concealed microphones, shooting footage of unsuspecting park visitors, and even running from park guards.

Oh, and crossing their fingers that Disney wouldn’t sue their pants off.

The result is an incredibly invigorating experience in the possibilities of the current technological age. The movie looks great considering it was shot on $3,000 hand-held cameras instead of $300,000 pro kits. The acting is solid considering a lot of it was done surrounded by unsuspecting park-goers. The production values are highly impressive and the direction is tight and assured for a first-time effort.

The only problem is the movie sort of sucks.

It pains me to say it, because I truly loved the premise of a family that goes to visit the Disney resort and discovers that all is not well in the Magical Kingdom. The trailer makes it seem like a fun, scary, schlocky, B-movie romp. And when paired with the innovative production, it promises a legendary future cult classic.

The real movie is a messy, poorly paced, confusing experimental film with no story to speak of and an incredibly unsatisfying ending. It’s such a shame, because sprinkled throughout are genuinely intriguing and possibly entertaining strands that just never get followed through to any sort of completion.

The problem is that it’s an exceptional student film, but not a great piece of commercial film-making. And frankly, the trailer straight up misleads you about what you’re getting. If I had expected a David Lynch remake of Pi, I probably would have loved this film. And I still think it’s worth seeing, and discussing. But I was expecting something more along the lines of a Darren Aronofsky remake of Westworld. And in fact I still would like to see that, if anyone in Hollywood is reading this.

At the end of the day, the makers of this film do deserve enormous credit for what they achieved. But Escape from Tomorrow belongs on the festival circuit, not at the multiplex.

by Ygal Kaufman