Escape Room is the latest trend-come-film cash-in, a horror film with a flair for the supernatural somewhat reminiscent of Jumanji as a set piece wherein the players are being played. Arriving by way of Sony Pictures in January 2019, it uses a few trailer music trends and techniques that have marked several other recent film trailers.
The conceit is, naturally, much like the escape rooms you may already know, but with the stakes raised to the extreme: six players are each given the chance to win $1 million, but on the other side of that million-dollar coin is a date with fatality.
After a nigh-requisite “trailer for the trailer” lasting six seconds, Malvina Reynolds’ 1962 folk tune “Little Boxes” plays. The song, initially inspired by the boxy, conformist, middle-class suburbs of San Francisco, found initial popularity as a critique of said conformist attitudes. It has since experienced a second life as a richly ironic opening theme for television program Weeds, and finds itself in a similar role here. For Escape Room, “Little Boxes” underscores our confounded expectations as to just what an escape room is and can or cannot be.
At 0:18 the song recedes and gives way to a ticking motif. Ticking has been incredibly prevalent in contemporary trailers; just this week, it makes a similar appearance in the trailer for new Showtime series Black Monday. This ticking, which persists underneath expository dialogue and the studio cards, ends at 0:58. As the characters on screen initially realize they have been placed in mortal peril, a steadily building epic cacophony unfurls.
After a montage sequence showcasing the various surreal environments laid out for the escape room participants, the retro ringing tone of a 50s-styled red rotary phone sonically presages the return of “Little Boxes.” This time, however, the song takes on an almost sinister tone in the context of the helplessness and panic of the on-screen dialogue.
Notice at 2:17 how the line “just the same” gets caught on repeat – a moment reminiscent of one found in the recent trailer for Captive State. To sonically bookend this final sequence, we find the phone off the hook at the end, stuck on the busy signal. It’s a classic sound of indifference and a feeling of disconnectedness wrought by technology.
On the whole, the trailer for Escape Room is nothing if not consistent, with a choice of song that serves as a thread through which it expresses its potential for subversive horror.
– Curtis Perry