Producers: Sonia Lisette, Kelly Delson, Jeff Delson and Will Wernick Director: Will Wernick Screenplay: Will Wernick Cast: Keegan Allen, Holland Roden, Denzel Whitaker, Ronen Rubinstein, Pasha Lynchnikoff, George Janko, Siya, Daiyar, Dimiter D. Marinov, Emilia Ares, Alex Kartashov, Andrei Runtso, Inja Zalta, Kimberly Quinn and Ravil Isyanov Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Originally titled “Follow Me,” Will Wernik’s horror thriller is yet another movie based on the increasingly tired premise that social media can be a dangerous thing. Sometimes a filmmaker can juice up the idea in an imaginative way, as Eugene Kotlyarenko did in the recent “Spree.” Wernick is not so fortunate.
Cole (Keegan Allen), we’re told early on, has been an internet star for a decade, a dark, edgy presence who’s gone viral. Now he’s aboard an airliner with his crew, speeding to Moscow where he promises his fans something special. His pretty girlfriend Erin (Holland Roden) is along for the ride, as are his two comrades-in-arms Dash (George Janko) and Sam (Siya). They’re met in Moscow by his old pal Thomas (Denzel Whitaker).
In the Russian capital Dash, who acts as a sort of high-octane producer, meets up with an ultra-smooth young rich guy named Alexei (Ronen Rubinstein), who offers them a thrilling time for their broadcast, and Cole snaps up the offer, especially after Alexei saves their behinds when they have a run-in with Lev (Daniyar), a thuggish brute.
So this obnoxious group is taken to an abandoned prison, which, they’re told, will act as an oversized escape room. They’re quickly subjected to a series of horrifying death-traps that they must try to get out of. Some are pretty elaborate, like the glass case in which Erin is trapped as water pours in. Others are bare-boned efforts, as when somebody is strapped into a chair and given electric shocks, or threatened with knives and scalpels by Andrei (Pasha Lychnikoff), a smirking sadist. It turns out he’s transmitting the scenes to scores of paying customers who post a stream of comments expressing their approval of the goings-on.
Cole himself is occasionally the recipient of some physical punishment, but mainly he has to endure watching his friends cruelly used while he’s unable to save them. In time, though, he’s on the run in the labyrinthine place, and is able to see Alexei, Andrei and their masked minions presiding over the activities. Naturally he fights back, until Wernick springs a twist that’s supposed to take your breath away. But it’s more likely to earn a shrug than a gasp.
“No Escape” features a lot of torture porn in the mold of “Saw” and “Hostel,” which hardly constitutes a virtue: that stuff was repulsive at its first appearance, and now has become passé as well. The young cast overdoes things trying to seem energetic, hip and (in the later stages) angry and fearful, but even so they’re upstaged by their Russian tormentors, who are all stereotypes of the worst sort. The movie has a dingy look courtesy of cinematographer Jason Goodell and production designer Adam Henderson, and Cris Mertens’ editing prolongs the torture scenes to excruciating effect while Crystal Grooms Mangano’s score offers generic menace music.
The characters might be trapped in “No Escape,” but you have an easy out—just click it off.