The short review: Profoundly discomforting, deeply unsettling and beautifully composed – with a few green screen hiccups in between – Randy Moore’s Escape From Tomorrow is a unique experience but not one that I’m eager to relive.
The long review: I tried to reason with myself that it was because I had a copy of Grand Theft Auto V in the glove compartment of my car waiting for me, but I found myself checking my watch multiple times during Escape From Tomorrow for a different reason. It made me uncomfortable.
Escape From Tomorrow is genuinely hard to watch. The film made waves at Sundance when the news broke that it was filmed almost entirely on location at Disney World and Disneyland without the knowledge, consent, or approval of the Walt Disney Corporation and its myriad holdings. After speaking at length with star Roy Abramsohn, I am of the firm belief that it’s a feat of guerrilla filmmaking that is to be celebrated — that much is certain — but it taps into a deep sense of unease and inner luckiness that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Like umeboshi (Japanese plum), I’m glad that I experienced it at least once, but I am in no hurry to dredge up those feelings again.
You know how you feel when you accidentally click on a link and find a GIF image of someone actually being decapitated? That’s how Escape From Tomorrow made me feel. I know it’s a work of fiction, but the dysfunctional family dynamics coupled with the faux-Kubrickian psychodrama and moments of through-the-looking-glass horror makes this film hit strangely close to home.
The film centers on Jim White, a doughy, emasculated man who loses his job while on the last legs of a family vacation, and his final day at Disney where things go from bad to worse to what the fuck in short order. Visions of topless women and roller coaster decapitations are the least of Jim’s worries, as he must deal with everything from having his wife rebuke his affections to a Lolita-like fascination with two young French girls to an Illuminati-like conspiracy that threatens to unravel his perception of reality as we know it. He is a man not trying to escape Tomorrowland, but rather trying to escape his personal tomorrow, the promise of a fresh hell, his American dream quickly revealing itself to be more of an American nightmare.
Escape From Tomorrow pulls something of a fast one on the audience, as we are trained to expect the moments of horror to be what makes us most uncomfortable. Rather, it is in its frank appraisal of familial dynamics and middle-aged male angst that the viewer must come face to face with the ugly truth. Less of an indictment of Disney than a commentary on the nature of forced fun, manufactured happiness, and the fragile nature of family relationships, Escape From Tomorrow‘s surreal imagery, noir-ish color palette, and claustrophobic framing makes for a psychedelic phantasmagoria that you won’t soon forget. It is a roller coaster ride that replaces the loop-de-loops with full body cringing and much like a weary parent at the end of a harrowing week-long Disney excursion, it is a trip that you won’t necessarily look forward to taking twice.
Escape From Tomorrow is in theaters today. Read our interview with star Roy Abramsohn, then let us know what you think in the comments below or hit me up directly on Twitter!