Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Escape From Tomorrow

You might remember hearing about "Escape From Tomorrow" during Sundance, usually in the context of the idea that no one outside Sundance was ever going to get to see it. It's a surrealistic indie/underground psychological horror movie ("David Lynch doing 'The Shining'" is a description I've heard) about a middle-aged guy during the last day of his family vacation at a huge theme park. Having received a phone call from his boss that his job will not be waiting for him when he returns home, he tries to hold things together (and keep the news from his family) while taking his daughter to the rides and attractions... where he begins to have nightmarish visions (or are they) of dark, sinister and even supernatural "things" happening in the park. So... corporatism, evil-under-surface-of-family-values, mass-market entertainment as opiate, you get the idea.

The hook? The theme park in question is Disney World, and much of the film was actually shot there. Covertly. Guerilla-style. Without any permission or consent from Disney. Using consumer-grade cameras, phones and actors blending into the "regular" crowds. Because of this, everyone figured this would become a permanent underground fixture and nothing more, since surely Disney would sue over unlicensed use of their... everything, pretty-much. But, as it turns out, the Mouse House has opted to go "hands-off" on this one (so far) and now "Escape From Tomorrow" is hitting theaters and VOD on 10/11. Below, the first official trailer:

I'm actually not especially surprised that Disney hasn't gone hardline on this one. As a company, they have a quixotic policy when it comes to their copyrights - you can find oceans of clearly-infringing fan videos, mash-ups, etc. on YouTube, but they seldom get pulled down. Their view seems to be that the pennies hypothetically saved on wrangling such material are worth foregoing in the longer-term goal of keeping fans onboard the highly-lucrative brand love-train.

I haven't seen the film itself yet, but I want to and I'm curious to see what the reaction will be. Most of the Sundance reviews seemed to ultimately concede that the actual film isn't precisely a masterpiece (guerilla-shoots like this rarely are) in terms of it's storyline, pacing etc; and from descriptions a lot of the "family-theme-park-as-den-of-evil" shtick sounds a bit warmed-over. So it'll be interesting to see how it's received by audiences outside the industry/press festival circuit who aren't likely to be as immediately appreciative of the logistics and audacity behind a shoot like this.