Movie Review #766 | Alexander Diminiano
‘Escape from Tomorrow’ takes an enjoyably traumatizing look at Walt Disney World.
Directed by Randy Moore. Writer: Randy Moore. Produced by Soojin Chung and Gioia Marchese for Mankurt Media. Starring Roy Abramsohn, Katelynn Rodriguez, and Jack Dalton. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013. Distributed by PDA in theatrical limited release on October 11, 2013. Distributed by FilmBuff and PDA to video-on-demand on October 11, 2013. Not Rated by the MPAA. Runs 90 minutes.
“Escape from Tomorrow” is the result of terrific guerrilla filmmaking. The film is set and was filmed is Disney World, but because Disney is aggressively restrictive of its intellectual property, the crew had to disguise the filming as a normal visit to the park. Cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham captured the film on three Canon EOS digital cameras that are popular among tourists. And just to keep anyone from overhearing about the movie in America, director Randy Moore travelled all the way to South Korea to hire Soojin Chung (the production editor for “Lady Vengeance”) as his film’s editor. No one involved in the project was to say a word about it until “Escape from Tomorrow” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013.
It gets better. Filming on location without permission is comparatively benign when we’re talking about a movie that can be seen as completely anti-Disney. The great Roger Ebert once asked us, “Of what use is freedom of speech to those who fear to offend?” It’s pretty much the opposite for Randy Moore, who values freedom of speech probably because his last concern in “Escape from Tomorrow” is whether he offends the audience. That’s exactly what makes this movie such a great story, and such edgy commentary on all the superficiality of Disney World. We watch a man lose his job, then keep from telling his wife and kids about this because he wants them to have a good vacation. He’s not this likable for the whole film though. He soon begins to drink to excess, stalk French girls, and lose his mind.
It’s basically “The Shining”, except located at the world’s epicenter of joy, not the grim Overlook Hotel. Though this is a movie in which setting has very little to do with mood. The whole movie presents Disney World as if it were an inescapable haunted house. An early scene features the classic It’s a Small World ride, where the protagonist begins to see the animatronic figures giving him evil looks. The song that accompanies the ride was removed for copyright reasons, but the music that was composed in its place is quite eerie. Abel Korzeniowski’s score is one of the most ingenious achievements in the whole movie, in fact. The score flows as something of a symphony, and it thoroughly mimics the sound of movie music during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Heard alone, the music sounds harmless, as would the scores from “The Third Man” or “Vertigo”. But the combination of that and the black-and-white cinematography seems to make the movie seem spookier, not older.
“Escape from Tomorrow” can be truly depressing to watch. There’s no other word for a movie that shows a family who goes to Disney World and finds their trip full of anxiety and bereft of fun. But at the same time, it’s pretty fun watching this family face nothing but trouble. This all changes around the climax, when the movie shifts gears to poke fun at the German company Siemens, for no apparent reason. But it’s back on its feet by the last ten minutes for a great B-movie ending. If nothing else, the finale contains a pretty clever “Alice in Wonderland” reference. ✴