WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Escape Room, in theaters now.
By the end of most trap-room stories, you expect the nefarious architect to unmask, if only so he or she may gloat about how the victims were manipulated into the deadly game. And so, as Escape Room progresses, audiences take in the miseries endured by the unfortunate protagonists while awaiting that inevitable reveal. However, director Adam Robitel throws viewers for a loop, and keeps the mystery of the main villain intact, presumably for the next sadistic chapter.
In the psychological horror film, six strangers are brought together to compete against each other in a mysterious escape room, enticed by the challenge and a cash prize. However, as these things tend to go, it turns out not to be innocent (and potentially lucrative) fun, but instead a sadistic game that's a matter of life or death.
After making it through a series of escape rooms, stoner Ben (Logan Miller) emerges in the film's final act as the apparent sole survivor, and enters a room in which artifacts and paintings are collected. He discerns the code needed for a puzzle, which would stop the walls from closing in and crushing him. When Ben realizes the walls won't stop, and that he was always destined to lose, he hides in the room's chimney and somehow makes it out alive.
Ben then makes it to an upper level, where he encounters the Gamemaster (Yorick van Wageningen), who congratulates Ben and provides him information about collecting his winnings, $10,000. But just as the exhausted young man lowers his guard, the Gamemaster wraps a wire around his neck, intending to strangle him and tie up loose ends.
However, he's saved by the intervention of fellow player Zoey (Taylor Russell), who somehow survived an earlier escape room that replicated a hospital. When poison entered the room, Zoey merely pretended to die. Having destroyed all the cameras in the room, she was then able to covertly use oxygen masks to stay alive. When the clean-up crew came to mop up the scene, she killed them, took a gun and followed their tracks to the Gamemaster's chambers.
Zoey arrives just in time to stop Ben's murder, and together they incapacitate the Gamemaster by smashing a bottle into his head. Then Ben fires a couple bullets through his skull for good measure. The kicker, though, is that the Gamemaster isn't actually the film's big villain.
Just before he attacks Ben, the Gamemaster reveals he's merely a pawn, and that the final level boss is actually someone called the Puzzle Builder. He's the creator of all of these escape rooms, and selects the "theme" that connects each group of victims -- whether they're athletes or savants or, in this case, the lone survivors of accidents. The games are then televised for the enjoyment of the world's wealthiest people.
Throughout the film, the mastermind was said to be Wootan Yu, but Zoey realizes the name is merely an anagram for "no way out." Escape Room ends with Ben and Zoey tracking this Puzzle Builder to a shady corporation in New York. Zoey encourages Ben to go with her to stop him once and for all. But in the final scene, the mysterious antagonist is already anticipating their next move. He's had his engineers mock up an escape room on a plane, in preparation for putting Ben and Zoey through the motions one more time.
As he speaks to his chief scientist, however, all we see is a shadowy figure on screen. Even his voice is distorted, as he says, "Let's play again," not unlike Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, ready to ensure Zoey and Ben pay the price for surviving his challenges.
Directed by Adam Robitel, Escape Room stars Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis and Nik Dodani.