Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
Directed by Randy Moore
Gimmick movies hold a special place in my heart. They’re the movies you have to watch once…just to say that you have. Movies with that one major draw. And usually, just the one. Everything else is crap. That’s “Escape from Tomorrow,” the über low-budget psychological horror flick filmed using iPhones and small camcorders inside Disney World and Disneyland theme parks…without the giant attractions having any idea the small crew was there. It’s the stuff of your most dreadful family vacation videos—the ones you’re forced to watch every once in a while when your parents are feeling nostalgic. You can even tell, sometimes, that the theme parks’ hurried visitors seem confused when seeing the action unfold. People just thought it was another dysfunctional family filming their vacation. Nope, they actually were creating a feature-length narrative. “Escape from Tomorrow” relies almost entirely on its unique and illegal production as its only draw…but it’s quite a draw.
Jim (Roy Abramsohm), his wife Emily (Elena Schuber), and their kids Sarah (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliot (Jack Dalton) wake up on their last full day of vacation at Disney, the happiest place on Earth. But it’s not long before Jim gets a call from his boss. He’s been let go. Not wanting to ruin the day, he hides the bad news. But it eats at him. The happiness around Jim drives him mad, and a few chance encounters with two beautiful French tourists make him realize that something is…well…off. Whether it’s in the park or in his head, he’s not sure. Neither are we.
“Escape from Tomorrow” is like Disney noir, a dark and twisted story set in a traditionally bright and cheery place. Sundance was left confused. Roger Ebert loved it (why, I’m not sure). Most IMDb users remain unimpressed. I’m among them. Aside from the interesting aspect of its shady creation, “Escape from Tomorrow” offers a sloppy script, amateur acting, and a story that leaves a lot of ends loose. Shot in black and white, “Escape from Tomorrow” acts as a cultural commentary on the message that Disney sends—if you’re not happy, you should be. It’s an interesting idea, but not interesting enough to carry this movie to anything more than lousy. Still, though, it’s worth seeing once. In this case, the gimmick works just enough. Make it your next “Crappy Netflix Movie Night” if you have to, but give it a shot.