Randy Moore’s “Escape from Tomorrow” may be the year’s most subversive film: a horrifying satire of the manufactured fun we’ve come to associate with the Disney assembly line.
Make no mistake: I’m a huge fan of the shiny, witty entertainment which, for years, has been the Disney trademark. I feel fortunate that my kids were young at the time when Disney went through a new golden age of animation, from “The Little Mermaid” through “Beauty and the Beast” to “The Lion King.” And it was a treat to take them to the happiest place on Earth for a couple of days – though the place can wear on you by the end of a hot day with interminable lines.
(Indeed, I’ve come to think of the kind of zig-zagging rope lines so popular now for crowd control as “Disney lines.” Disneyland and Disneyworld were the first places I saw them used with such ruthless efficiency. They give you the illusion of progress – right up to the point that you reach what seems to be the front of a line, only to turn a corner and discover that you are at the rear of another, similarly elaborate zig-zagging rope line.)
In Moore’s film, one family finds its sanity and safety threatened by what seems to be the malevolent undercurrent at Disneyworld. The father, Jim (Roy Abramsohn), gets a phone call telling him he’s lost his job on the last day of his family’s vacation. Rather than reveal the bad news to his wife Emily (Elena Schuber), he simply tells her he wants to make this final day at the Magic Kingdom a memorable one.
It is, but not in the way he expects.
He notices two foreign (French?) girls on the tram from the hotel to the front gates – and then keeps seeing them in the park. Which leads him to stalk them, in a suburban-dad sort of way – meaning he drags his school-age son Elliot with him.
“Daddy, why are we following those girls?” Elliot asks.
“We’re not following them. Maybe they’re just going on the same rides we are,” Jim responds.
But Jim quickly notices something’s not right. The faces on the animatronic figures in the rides suddenly start to flash momentarily horrifying expressions. Some of the people around him seem to have portentous coughs and sniffles. And those girls turn up everywhere Jim looks.
Moore’s skewed world is shot in an evocative black-and-white that gives everything the shadowy cast of a 1940s Val Lewton film.
This review continues on my website.