I am writing this to you, the reader, from a darkened room while listening to Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” because there’s really no other sound that can come close to describing the experience I just had. Although, unlike the experience, this album is enjoyable.
About two hours prior to writing this, I sat in the Goldsmith Family Cinema where, along with about one hundred students, I settled in to watch an advanced screening of “Escape From Tomorrow,” a film shot on location in Walt Disney World Resort without the permission of the Disney corporation.
“Escape From Tomorrow” created a great deal of buzz at Sundance, not because it’s a particularly good motion picture, but rather because of the absurdity of the concept. Who sneaks a full cast and crew into a theme park to shoot a movie? And I haven’t even gotten to the best and worst part: it’s a sexualized, surreal, horrific story about a man who loses his job and has a psychotic breakdown in the middle of Disney World. However, it’s difficult to say if it’s really a breakdown or something else entirely out of the protagonist’s control.
When trying to describe the plot to a friend after the movie, I essentially gave him this same explanation. Yet upon further reflection, this summary really doesn’t even cover 1/100th of the film; it’s something you just need to experience to understand. That’s not to say that you should rush to your nearest Video on Demand device to catch this strange film. In fact, skipping the movie completely would be totally justifiable.
“Escape From Tomorrow” offers little pleasure or reward for the viewer unless you’re into trippy, experimental films with subpar acting and writing. And I’m not talking “2001: A Space Odyssey” Stargate scene trippy. This movie literally trips over itself left and right.
Director Randy Moore has said in interviews that he made the film because he was struggling to find work as a screenwriter, and it’s easy to see why. Almost entirely incoherent in terms of narrative, “Escape From Tomorrow” is especially not intended for a mature audience. It almost begs to be seen by younger audiences while inebriated in whichever manner they choose.
Technically speaking, the cinematography is impressive solely because the crew had to hide the cameras from both Disney personnel and innocent park patrons. There’s enough to warrant the black-and-white photography, mostly to create the insane, decaying universe of the film, but sometimes the film is painfully cheap. Use of green screens is obvious at times which really pulls the viewer out of the whole “shot in Disney World without permission” gimmick that the film is trying to market itself under. Additionally, when going through Disney rides that feature video sequences on screens, “Escape From Tomorrow” painfully overexposes these segments because of a complete lack of manipulation of the park facilities.
I haven’t even given you a real synopsis of the different characters, but there’s really no point in wasting any space doing so. The story itself is simply atrocious. If the director were to cut 30 minutes from the film, it would still be too long. The only true redeeming plot point, and I say this based completely on my personal taste, is the ending: it is so radically different than the rest of the film and absolutely insane that it’s laughably enjoyable. By this point I had lost all interest in the actual narrative that such a radical shift actually gave it new life for me.
This is not to say that the ending is smart or clever in any manner. In fact, I think Moore just wrote the ending for the hell of it. If you’re one of the people who left the theater trying to “interpret” what it all meant, you were likely wasting brain cells. It was simply the only way he could figure out how to end it. And even though the final scene of “Escape From Tomorrow” does have a literal clean-up of the mess it created, there’s nothing tidy about it at all.
I might seem angry at this point and totally turned off by the film, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m actually extremely glad that I saw this lurid piece of garbage. I saw a film made in a completely unique and different way and found that the gimmick itself attracted me even if the story left much to be desired.
Although I’m not sure another film will ever be quite like “Escape From Tomorrow,” the film gave me a glimmer of hope that certain gimmicks might actually be utilized properly in the future if they can balance well with strong story lines.