“You can’t be happy all the time”
The thing about Walt Disney World is that even though it might be a direct product of the great Sir Walt’s wandering imagination, it’s also in retrospect just a theme park. So no, things aren’t always bright and happy; those Disney Princesses fake smiling are probably barely getting paid minimum wage. And no, that hotel you’re staying at isn’t really five stars; this, as artist Camille Rose Garcia first coined Disneyland, is The Saddest Place on Earth.
Everything about Escape from Tomorrow represents that sadness in Randy Moore’s first movie, that let’s just say he pretty much filmed illegally, a very audacious move for a guy making his film debut. But I can’t say that it wasn’t done effectively: a dark, horrifying monochromic take on the much-loved park, however much trouble Moore might be in with Disney for illegally filming on both of their properties in Orlando and Anaheim.
The movie starts out on a breezy hotel balcony resort in Orlando. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) has just learned via an early morning phone call that he’s been let go from his job during the tale end of his family vacation at Disney World. Talking himself out of feeling down all day, he decides to go into a day spent at the park with as positive of an outlook as possible. Except those little demons just won’t seem to go away, causing him much anxiety and a growing suspicion among his wife Emily (Elena Schuber).
For anyone who’s ever spent the day at an amusement park—let alone one of the largest—it can get a bit stressful: long lines, family feuds, the need to go eat a bunch of greasy french fries while everyone else wants to ride rides—not all fun and games. But this actually is right where the fun begins for Moore’s masterpiece: Jim’s imagination and paranoia starts to thread into his reality and everything becomes distorted into this surrealistic, drips black kind imagery that will really trip you out. Oh, and he keeps wanting to follow these way too young for him Parisian tourists because he thinks he has a chance with them, and they’re everywhere.
Things get confusingly weird after their son Elliot (Jack Dalton) gets sick on one of the rides and wants to go home. His sister Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) puts up a fuss how she wants to stay, and Jim agrees to accompany her while Emily and Elliot go back to the hotel. Suddenly we’re back in Jim’s surrealistic world of gazing cleavage, encounters with a devil in disguise, and those damn Parisians—unmasking any preconceived notions that Disney World is all that it’s cracked up to be.
Escape from Tomorrow won’t be the first film this year to take a stab at theme parks’ tendency to cover up horror realities to maintain face: Blackfish has gained a lot of attention in completely unraveling what might be the saddest case of animal abuse in all of history. Regardless of facts and technicalities (and illegalities!), Moore’s done good. A gutsy move risking a lot to create something 100% original that’s simultaneously funny and dark was definitely worth it.
(photos via filmswelike)