Seeking out the

5000 greatest films

in a century of cinema

Escape from Tomorrow

Directed by Randy Moore
Produced by Soojin Chung and Gioia Marchese
Written by Randy Moore
With: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru, Lee Armstrong, Kimberly Ables Jindra, Trey Loney, Amy Lucas, Alison Lees-Taylor, Jakob Salvati, and Stass Klassen
Cinematography: Lucas Lee Graham
Editing: Soojin Chung
Music: Abel Korzeniowski
Runtime: 90 min
Release Date: 19 July 2014
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color: Black and White

Escape from Tomorrow, the début feature from writer/director Randy Moore, takes place entirely at the Walt Disney World resort and is mostly shot on the grounds of the actual parks--right under the nose of the notoriously litigious Disney Company. I’ve got to give Moore credit for his chutzpah in taking on The Mouse.  It is a feat to shoot an R-rated psychological horror movie in the kingdom of family entertainment. The film, however, is nothing more than an example of the empty, aimless, insufferable content being churned out by untalented upstart “filmmakers” empowered by the tools of digital filmmaking. Escape from Tomorrow is the kind of movie that is only interesting because of how it was made. It has no other value as a piece of cinema, and sitting through its 104 minute running time is more tedious than standing in one of those interminable lines at The Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World is a surrealistic place and I love going there,  much the same way John Waters use to love attending murder trials. To me, the resort complex represents everything truly wonderful and everything truly evil about America standing side by side in full, sunny view. The EPCOT center, which would have been a kind of bizarre eugenics experiment had Walt Disney lived to see his dream of it built, still possesses remnants of its bewitching yet deeply unsettling ideological origins--kind of Norman Rockwell crossed with Ray Kurzweil by way of William Randolf Hearst and Adolph Hitler. The potential for an amazing horror movie, sci-fi picture, or David Lynchian psychodrama are limitless. Unfortunately Moore and his collaborators have nothing to say with their film, other than “look how cool we are for pulling this off”. The “screenplay”,  is nothing more than a series of idea fragments that go nowhere and have nothing to say about Disney World – or America, tourist culture, family life, the power of giant corporations, the false promises of fantasy, or the hundreds of other themes this movie could have been about. 

For the first ten minutes, the thrill of shooting a guerilla style film on the actual grounds of the Magic Kingdom and it’s Contemporary Resort Hotel is palpable, but the novelty of watching the bad actors perform terribly scripted scenes on the actual rides of the park wears off quickly. I would never expect a high caliber of acting in a film where so many scenes are “stolen,” but it soon becomes clear that this covert production style is all the movie is about. No one involved in the project bothered to think too deeply about what this picture could say. Even if we set aside the lack of an interesting script or any meaningful thematic content, in order to truly appreciate the gimmick of the movie it must at least appear to be entirely shot entirly at the resort. But the film contains some scenes so obviously faked in a green screen studio that it fails to even create that illusion. It is confusing that these faked scenes look as bad as something made on iMovie, yet there are some special effects that appear as visions or dream sequences that are quite impressive. These shots--like one of the EPCOT Space Ship Earth ball exploding--only make the viewer begin to imagine the clever and even amazing film Escape from Tomorrow could have been.

Some critics at Sundance, where this film was a surprise hit, are comparing the movie to the works of David Lynch, but that analogy is only applicable if you disregard all of Lynch’s brilliant cinematic output and make a correlation soley to his last feature, 2006’s Inland Empire. Even that boring, uninspired home video by Lynch is easier to sit though than this movie, because Escape from Tomorrow doesn’t have a Laura Dern caliber actor at its center-- just a fat middle-aged guy lusting after some Parisian teenagers. Many are wondering what response, if any, the Disney Company will have to this film, but if they’re smart they will just let it come and go without shining the light of publicity on this forgettable picture that I image few will bother to see unless it becomes a cause celeb. For despite the audacity of the filmmakers’ intentions, there is nothing here to get worked up about on any level. Not legally, not creatively, not experientially. Escape from Tomorrow is nothing more than a trumped up home video.