“Escape From Tomorrow” (2013)
Written and directed by Randy Moore
Cast: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Alison Lees-Taylor
Forget the buzz and hype, the guerrilla film-making, sneaking into Sundance, avoiding litigation (so far), and, please, leave the Disney-bashing at the door.
“Escape From Tomorrow” is a unique film-going experience, an original and entertaining movie. For a very modest $650,000 dollars, much of it coming out of his own pocket, director Randy Moore shows us a side of the Magic Kingdom not found in promotional footage or gushing brochures. My favorite scenes in “Escape From Tomorrow” are often derived from “B roll” footage, just ordinary shots of Disneyworld, which seems surreal enough even without enhancement or distortion. People herded into long lines, trudging relentlessly from one spectacle to the next, shrieking at the bobbing, leering simulacra, the entire process rewound and replayed hundreds of times every day, 365 days of the year.
I also loved the tension that is immediately apparent between Jim (Roy Abramsohn) and Emily (Elena Schuber). They’ve come to Disneyworld for a much-needed vacation with their two kids and it doesn’t look like anyone is having a good time. Now, on their last day, Jim finds out he’s been fired and doesn’t know how he’s going to break it to his wife. Determined to put on a brave face, he accompanies his family to the theme park, trying not to think about what will happen once they leave this enchanted place and return to the real world.
Jim tries, he really does, but is rebuffed on every front, by his spoiled, over-stimulated children and his cool, indifferent spouse. Bored, cranky, he stares sullenly at the mechanical figures and painted dioramas, jolting upright in his seat when they begin to change—
From that point on, things become very strange indeed. Hallucinatory, disorienting, downright menacing. Poor Jim endures a day in Hell, literally, including experiencing a parent’s worst nightmare: losing your child. As he searched for his wayward daughter, becoming more and more frantic, I was almost writhing in my seat, sharing his rising panic.
There are shortcomings, no question. The performances are uneven and the green-screening rather obvious. The plot meanders and “Escape From Tomorrow” could’ve used trimming to help with the pacing, particularly in the first half. Some of the sub-plots don’t work (an inexplicable encounter with a scientist in the Epcot Center is one glaring example) and the conclusion of the film doesn’t entirely satisfy or withstand careful scrutiny.
But give director-writer Randy Moore credit. He came up with a neat idea and managed, thanks to his own grit, resourcefulness and gift for invention, to create and release a movie unlike any other; that is remarkable in and of itself.
For the most part, “Escape From Tomorrow” delivers the goods. It imparts a creepiness that slowly insinuates itself into the viewer, creating an undercurrent of unease that is not easily achieved. Another film-maker who inspires similar thoughts is David Lynch and I think fans of that auteur would be receptive to “Escape From Tomorrow”. Except…for Lynch the entire world is one, great Disneyland, darkness and magic lurking in the most innocuous locales, smiling masks concealing cruel motives, safe havens in short supply. He does not make art to reassure or coddle and fiendishly devises moral and ethical dilemmas to confound even devoted acolytes.
Mr. Moore walks in big footprints–however, there is every possibility he possesses the talent and vision to fill them.
May “Escape From Tomorrow” be the first of many movies to come.