Associate professor Dr. Emily Burns is forced by two masked men into a small square shaped room, confined by four faux wood paneled walls and layered with a thin tattered carpet. Oblivious to the reason behind her sudden captivity, Emily frantically searches the room, desperately searching for clues for a potential escape and potentially why she’s been locked away. Emily also realizes she’s suffering from incapacitating headaches, fragmented memories, and she discovers has a musket size growth on the back of her neck. Her masked captors visit her often, inquiring about the date January 11th and if she’s able to complete her mentor’s work, but Emily can’t put the pieces together; she has to puzzle together the clues she discovers in the bleak room that might be her only way to truly understand her situation.
“Riddle Room” (also known as “Breakaway”) is a mystery thriller based on the clue finding, puzzle solving, race against the clock room escape concepts that are highly popular usually associated with team building exercises or a fun thing to do on any given night. Director Bryan Binder keeps the air enigmatic and unloads a blindside ending that’s a rare and unique quality for a director’s freshman feature film. The characters are with attributes of shapeshifting intrigues that aid in the mysteries or the riddles, if you will. The “Riddle Room” has everything a traditional live escape room would be fitted with: clues placed in all parts of the room, a sense of tremendous urgency, and even a countdown timer. Yet, the pressure isn’t necessarily transferred onto the captivated viewer; instead, Dr. Emily Burns puzzling predicament enthralls much of the story’s fascination.
Marisa Stober is cast as the lead character Dr. Emily Burns, who majorly is the film’s lone wolf actress, and she attempts to put Emily in a completely complexing situation, but doesn’t quite sell her solitary performance as she leads Emily along with such ease through the room’s clues and is able to easily get the quick upper hand on her captors. However, the ease in both areas might be contributed to film’s surprising, if yet impractical, twist finale, which only makes for a good movie night and not a nonfictional masterpiece. Binder wrote the screenplay as well that’s needs some fine tune polishing. Between Emily’s fragmented memory moments and when Emily’s entire story comes together at the end, some questions about Emily’s status and her arrival to the situation still go unanswered.
Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films distributes the first film under the Three Ring Entertainment produced credit onto DVD this February. The video quality is presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio on a dual layer compressed disc, which is kind of odd since the film is roughly 80 minutes and not very effects heavy, and is fairly clean with vivid coloring and natural tones. There’s slight selective aliasing moments on the faux wood paneled room, but doesn’t hinder the film’s overall video quality. From an audio standpoint, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 is noticeably unbalanced with much of Stober’s dialogue, specifically whispering, going unheard or lost within the Henrik Åström soundtrack. The comprehensibility from Emily’s masked captor’s monotoned produced voice puts Stober’s dialogue tracks to shame. The special features are nicely abundant with cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes featurette, cast auditions, investor scene, a bonus trailer, and a making of the “Experiment.”
“Riddle Room” doesn’t have any thrill shortcomings, leaving the story’s beginning and end open to focus primarily on Emily’s high strung bewilderment. Even though the ending falls a bit flat, I suspect that Bryan Binder is an upcoming writer-director to keep an eye. I’d like to see a follow up sequel to “Riddle Room” under the same cast and crew to continue the development of Dr. Emily Burns, to get her status update, and to understand more of the plight. A companion piece would nicely complete Binder’s seemingly unfinished “Riddle Room” narrative, but as a standalone feature, satisfaction comes easy enough through what’s already written and recorded for this 2016 film.