Gawrsh! Goofy sure is going to be mad...
Escape From Tomorrow is a surreal, psychedelic trip through Disney, filmed secretly, guerilla style, under the guise of home video cameras without the involvement or permission of the Disney Corporation. The filmmakers were able to make a horror film crafted almost exclusively by the natural images on display at the park (with a little help from CGI and green screen). On the last day of vacation at Walt Disney World, Jim White decides not to tell his family that he's been laid off, in order to avoid spoiling the remainder of the trip. As their day progresses, the man is haunted by long lines, his nagging wife, his obsession with a pair of giggly young French girls, blackouts, witches, cat flu, terrifying animatronics, his own adultery, and even a child trying to kill him with the help of a man in a mobility scooter. His delusions and paranoia begin to convince Jim that the park has a sinister plan to humiliate him. In other words, a typical day at Disney World.
Let's face it - no matter how great this movie had turned out to be, the story about how it was made was always in danger of overshadowing the movie itself. I won't use up space here talking about it, but I highly suggest that you research it before watching the film. The marvel of how they pulled off much of what they did will add to your appreciation as you watch it. You'll be left wondering how they pulled off many of the shots, considering that it was logistically impossible for them to take much time setting up or be particularly picky with the angles.
Luckily, the movie is able to rise above its back story and be interesting in its own right. Jim is not having a very good day, despite his best efforts. He quickly begins a spiral down the rabbit hole into madness that gets stranger as the film progresses. The final half hour in particular will certainly remind of Fellini, Polanski, and Lynch (*critic cred card renewed) and may leave you wondering what you just saw. The beautiful black and white photography also lends an air of surrealism that is quite effective, while also presumably helping to hide some of the limitations of the shooting style.
Writer/director Randy Moore is mostly successful at creating this very nightmarish world. Of course it certainly helps that the fine folks at Disney supplied much of the design, art direction, and costuming, without knowing they were doing so. In a clever way, Moore was able to poke fun at the actual horrors of a family vacation that means well, but, in reality, requires quite a bit of work just to have a little fun. It's obviously done in an exaggerated way, but those who have ever been in charge of ensuring their family enjoys on a long trip, will recognize a lot of what is at play here. There are several scenes, particularly involving an increasingly frustrated wife and bratty kids, that are slight exaggerations of situations that have actually played out on your own vacations.
Not all is good, of course. Besides Roy Abramsohn (who missed his opportunity at an easier entry into Hollywood by standing in for Bruce Campbell) as the father having a mental breakdown, the majority of the acting is not very good. It should come as no surprise that the most convincing performances are given by extras who had no idea they were in a film. The special effects work used to heighten the scariness of the park are not particularly great, but they serve their purpose, especially considering the very limited budget and resources. Also, a little more focus and cohesion to the overall proceedings could have gone a long way to giving the film more rewatchibility. The choice to have the hallucinations continue a few times when Jim is not present in the scene is an odd one that doesn't quite seem to fit with the overall vision of the film. As it stands, it's much more of a one time experience that you'll appreciate having seen, but will unlikely need to watch it again anytime soon. Tightening up by about 10 - 15 minutes may have also elevated it a bit.
JASON'S FINAL THOUGHTS:
Much has been made of this being an anti-Disney film, attempting to expose the horrors of the park and the corporation itself, probably by people who have not yet seen it. In reality (or as much reality as possible for this film) it feels more like a darkly comedic psychological study of the emotional toll that comes with a family vacation . It could have really been set anywhere and the fact that it was surreptitiously (*critic cred card renewed for next year, too) at the most famous resort and theme park in the world really only added to its publicity, rather than the content of the film itself. If you are a fan of psychological horror that relies on imagery more than murder (think Altered States, Dead Ringers, or Jacob's Ladder), then Escape From Tomorrow is much better than it had any believable chance of being.
Review by Jason Howard, Lead entertainment Writer
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