A large portion of my love of film and television stems from the idea of originality, creative genius and making something shocking and provocative that nobody else has before. That’s why when I saw the trailer for Randy Moore’s controversial, dark indie film, and heard the story of their guerrilla film-making that took place on Disney property, I was beyond excited to see the film. Could Escape From Tomorrow deliver on such anticipation?
A seemingly picture perfect family of four arrive at Walt Disney World in Florida, prepared for a great family vacation. However, the father of the household, Jim, gets some unsettling news from work, and this couples with family pressures and some bizarre occurrences at the park leads the family spiraling down a disturbing turn of events.
Immediately as the film begins, you get the sense that you’re in for something strange. The film is mainly black and white. The camera is a small, handheld job. The acting is strange in a way. Not bad, just a little weird. Everything seems a little bizarre and almost fake. Then the strange stuff starts…
Going into the film, it was clear that Escape From Tomorrow was going to have some kind of message to share, but it was going to share it in some strange and ambiguous way. This is pretty much confirmed as the film goes on, and the events begin to paint a picture that something is horribly wrong, and the contrast between this feeling and the pure happiness that exists on the surface of Disneyworld makes for a really interesting spectacle and creates a wonderful mood.
So after the first few minutes of the film I was feeling pretty good about things. One of the first things that jumped out at me was the acting and the dialogue, which is such a mixed bag throughout. The actors did fine jobs, but they aren’t world class. This added to much of the film in a weird way, as it matched the tone, but at times it also was a little distracting. I would imagine that much of this is due to the fact that they were limited in their ability to do multiple takes, due to the semi-illegal nature of their filming situation. Overall though, it wasn’t anything drastic, and some of the supporting characters put in some incredible, bizarre, cringe worthy and stomach turning performances.
The story itself, is a mixed bag. I have to admit that as much as I adored the premise, and a lot of the execution, I felt like there was a lot of wasted time here. There were some stretches where the film got a little boring. The film was too long I thought, as a premise like this needs to be executed precisely and efficiently in order to pack the punch it is capable of. The extra 15 minutes or so that I felt the film could have done without actually did diminish it’s power a little I thought. Maybe it got lost in itself a little, but my thought is that a film with a bizarre and ambiguous message can afford to leave a few blanks in there if needed to keep the ball rolling.
Visually I thought the film was great. I loved the black and white. I loved the grainy feel. I loved the close ups of facial expressions. They were creepy and bizarre. Also, the special effects used to manipulate some of the Disney attractions were simple but effective, and their cartoon like presentations makes them creepy and almost amusing at the same time. Then that little kid, with the eyes. It was great stuff.
The film’s message itself is well presented, with enough clarity for some and enough ambiguity to leave some interpretation available. It presents a dark reality that evil, and bad things exist everywhere, no matter what you see on the surface. Happiness can’t be built, or created artificially, at least not long lasting happiness. The film also touches on temptation, family dynamics, technology and social dynamics in the modern world. It’s all great stuff, but there were times when the presentation of these ideas was only ‘good.’
All in all, Escape From Tomorrow is a wonderfully bizarre, unique experience that has a wonderful story behind its creation as well as the story within the film itself. It presents a bleak view of humanity, and one that I enjoyed. However, I can’t help but say that I was a little disappointed. Give me a pair of scissors and I think I could cut 10-15 minutes out of this film, and make it into the cult classic it deserves to be. Still, go see it as it is a good film and remarkable achievement.