What did I just see?

Jason Green, Contributor

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Escape From Tomorrow is writer/director Randy Moore’s debut project and what an enormous project it is. The horror/sci-fi film is set in Disney World, which some may think is not all that weird, until you try to recall all of the movies that you have seen that have been filmed at Disney World.

Go ahead…. I’ll wait. Disney is extremely protective of its image and apart from movies being filmed at sets on Disney property— there really is no precedent for movies being filmed in the theme park. When you also take into account that the film is Moore’s very twisted and dark view of a Disney vacation gone bad, you begin to see why this film was shot guerrilla style using nothing more than high quality tourist cameras.

Don’t let the “high quality tourist camera” part deter you though. If you’re fine with black and white film and movies that may or may not have a 100 percent solid plot, then this film comes highly recommended.

Moore was clearly inspired by some of the great oddball directors like David Lynch and Terry Gilliam. In fact, this movie bears a large resemblance to one of my favorite Gilliam films, Brazil. The film offers a highly skewed view of “the happiest place on Earth”— much like Brazil offers a very twisted view of a completely inept, futuristic bureaucracy.

This view of Disney is what inevitably allowed Moore to release his film despite the clear theft of so many bits of Disney iconography. Because the film is so dark and basically the antithesis of Disney World, it is protected by the same laws that allow people like “Weird Al” Yankovic to parody almost any song he wants.

 

So what about the plot?

The main character, Jim, is visiting Disney with his family and apparently experiencing a mid-life crisis as well. The film starts off rather normal. It only takes fifteen minutes or so for the creepy, distorted faces of South Korean horror classics like The Host to make an appearance on the It’s a small world ride. I could easily explain the plot if this is where it ended. Creepy faces on puppets, scary children singing, a gruesome bloody injury and lapses in memory are all classic horror elements that could make you think you’ve seen a pretty complete horror film. Except for the fact that these horror elements are pretty much secondary to the really weird, underlying theme in the film.

As I said earlier, the film is really a parody of the Disney World theme park. The characters, their relationships and the occasional horror movie elements are not the focus at all. The park is the focus. What goes on behind the scenes at Disney? Is it truly all that happy? Does it leave its visitors truly happy? That’s where we get into the “are the turkey legs made of emu” and “are the princesses really just high paid courtesans questions”. It seems at times that Moore may have tried to compress every silly rumor he had ever heard about the park as a kid into the tiny little space in his plot holes. This is where the film drifts from what could have potentially been a pretty good, formulaic horror film, to a “what the heck did I just watch” science fiction film.

If you are a fan of film and filmmaking, then I have no problem recommending Escape From Tomorrow to you. The guerrilla filmmaking alone is impressive. Moore’s writing is also very impressive at times, not in the outward dialogue but in a lot of the undertones. There are some very odd Oedipal situations with Jim’s son (played by a pretty awesome young actor, Jack Dalton) to go along with some American Beauty-esque old man obsessed with younger women things.

In these strange, maybe hidden messages is where my interest remained throughout the film. Had they not been there, I’m not sure I would have made it through the rest of the film. If you are looking for a straight up horror film to enjoy this upcoming Halloween season, this isn’t it. There is nothing straight up about it. If you are looking for something to mess with your head a little, then this is it. Just be prepared to answer people who ask you if you liked it with the same thing that I’ve been saying for a few days now – I’m not really sure, but I definitely need to watch it again.

 

Escape From Tomorrow is out now on DVD and various on demand video services.

 

Jason Green may be reached at [email protected]