Escape from Tomorrow is an astonishing achievement in filmmaking.
Escape From Tomorrow
First time filmmaker Randy Moore certainly made a name for himself when Escape from Tomorrow first premiered nearly a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival where critics were calling the film bold, insane, and mind-melting. Initially, many people were thinking the film would not get a proper release because of the potential legal issues considering it was filmed inside Disney’s theme parks without permission. But clearly Escape from Tomorrow did in fact survive to see the light of day despite the pitch-black portrayal of the self-proclaimed “happiest place on earth” being transformed into the most horrific place on earth.
The film begins with Jim (Roy Abramsohn) receiving a phone call from work letting him know the unfortunate news that he has been let go. This news comes at a very inconvenient time as his family is on vacation and are about to spend the entire day at the magical wonderland of Disney World. In order not to bring the family trip to a complete halt, Jim decides to not tell his pompous wife Emily (Elena Schuber) about the news and just allow his kids to enjoy the Disney experience that every little kid dreams of. But it is not long before the magical dream that the park strives for turns into a terrorizing nightmare for the family.
Jim slowly loses his grip on reality when he begins to witness cute cartoon characters morph into possessed demon looking ones while riding on the amusement park’s rides with his family. Extreme paranoia settles in for Jim when more and more hallucinations occur while drifting through the park. Jim seems to be under some sort of trance by two underage French girls who he never lets out of his sight, which increases the creepiness factor in a completely different way.
As mentioned before, most the film is shot in guerilla-style within the walls of the Walt Disney theme park without permission. Even though this is plenty obvious, Escape from Tomorrow covers its bases right up front with a notice to the audience that Disney had absolutely no involvement with the production of the film. It is hard to deny that what significantly increases the allure of the film is that it was done without authorization. By definition that make the film rather gimmicky. However, this ploy is handled in meticulous fashion that undoubtedly accomplishes what it set out to do.
Adding to the overall impressiveness of the undercover filmmaking, the cast had to act out the scenes in a way that did not draw attention to the fact they were shooting in a film in the public setting. It was smart to use actors that were not immediately recognizable to the average person and these no-name actors handled their assignments in a skillful manner. This is quite a feat considering children actors are involved and re-takes had to be limited (or at least difficult to do).
Filming in black and white not only aids the depiction of darkness that radiates from the park, but it also helps make the green screen scenes a little less apparent (though it is still easy to tell even in the less obvious uses). Cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham (Little Blue Pill) shrewdly uses a lot of close-up shots to make it easier to blend in on location shots with ones filmed elsewhere and the combination of Soojin Chung’s superb editing skills makes Escape from Tomorrow feel like it never steps outside the park.
When you consider all the obstacles involved in making the film, including a minimal budget, Escape from Tomorrow is an astonishing achievement in filmmaking. Though the film is not completely without flaws. After the intermission at about the two-thirds mark, the film takes a noticeable detour that kicks the insanity levels up a few notches. It is at that point that Escape from Tomorrow begins to feel like a slightly different film all together when it suddenly becomes self-aware (censoring a character saying the name Disney) and forcing the plot to be explained more than it needed to be. Nevertheless, if you have made it that far into the film these minor quibbles will likely not ruin the greatness that came before it. The final jarring scene makes for an exceptional ending to the hair-raising surrealist work of art that it is.