Escape from Tomorrow, from debut writer-director Randy Moore, has been drumming up some interest of late, being an unauthorized feature-length film made in Disney World. Now it’s out, but the question that remains though is if it’s any good.
In theory it’s a really interesting film, the idea of shooting something in Disney World, without permission and a horror film at that, is something of a unique prospect. And really that’s the only thing that makes this film even remotely interesting.
Following a family’s trip through Disney World from the recently unemployed father’s point of view we see the hectic endeavour that is a familial journey through the happiest place on Earth. Becoming infatuated with a pair of underaged French girls, he spirals into a pit of visions, hallucinations and extramarital affairs with witches. In theory this could be good, but the execution is sorely lacking.
Roy Abramsohn‘s acting, as the father, is stiff and stilted. He constantly looks like he’s acting, never at ease in the character. The same applies to his wife (Elena Schuber). The timing of dialogue is just so off and there’s no chemistry. Even though he’s supposedly lost interest in his wife there should at least be some connection between the actors but there is none here. Their interactions are, at the most base level, clichéd sitcom family fluff you’ve seen a million times before. Outside of the children that do their job of being rather cute the acting is just uniformly bad, though not enough to be funny.
The father is supposedly troubled, in some ill-defined manner, and he’s obviously completely inept as a parent and a husband; not looking after his children, chasing after underaged girls and drinking too much, not to mention an adulterous encounter that he takes his daughter on. He’s just completely unsympathetic and uncompelling to watch, and not in an interesting way. No amount of perspective sympathy can dig him out of the hole he’s in.
Filmed in stark black and white the film’s immediately striking, by virtue of looking unlike most films we see today. This veneer falls rather quickly as the feeling that the black and white was applied only to gloss over the visual shortcomings of the cameras used during filming, which shines through in certain scenes that are obviously image stabilized. Some shots, especially when night falls, do look really nice and the manifested hallucinations on rides, which are lent an eerie quality in black and white, are smartly done but it’s a resoundingly cheap film that overreaches. There are instances of absolutely atrocious green-screen usage for a handful of scenes. They stick out and assault you like a red-hot poker in the eyes. All of this is of course playing out under the constant blaring of the cheap sounding, stock-quality score.
Halfway through, the film hits an intermission, pretentiously complete with intertitles and everything. Having not really gotten into any sort of swing it dovetails into some nonsensical ‘bigger picture’ something-weird-is-really-going-on mumbo-jumbo that feels completely unearned and is supremely uninteresting, given how awful the characters are. Here they also go all self-aware; bleeping out Disney, covering some brand names with black bars and pixel-blurring out the leading man’s ass. It’s not funny and it’s not clever. Likely they were shooting for some sort of B-Movie, fun schlock, but it’s absolutely charmless. The ideas are clearly there but they’re let down by the writing and acting.
Along with this the film is full of overtly obvious imagery, such as the two French girls eating a pair of bananas as the father leers at them, being quite heavy-handed. The same goes for an instance of hand sanitizer squirting. The camera also always lingers on female butts for a beat longer than you’d think necessary. It’s just sort of gross.
Final Verdict: It’s a YouTube short stretched over an hour and a half. Escape from Tomorrow is the most artistically shot family vacation video you’ll ever see, which is giving it a lot. The kids are kind of sweet and the idea is interesting, but beyond that the execution is lacking. It’s not a good drama, not a good fantasy and not a good horror film and that makes for a pretty lackluster film overall.