He has also taken cues from Hellraiser and Saw, and stolen the opening title reveal from Panic Room, but aside from those obvious indulgences, I'll cut the guy some slack, because as contrived and familiar as ESCAPE ROOM is, it is also a lot of fun.
A man crashes through the ceiling and lands in a strange room. It is an old fashioned office library with a large puzzle fixed to the wall. With a ticking clock the room closes in on itself and the guy must solve the problem before he ends up being crushed to death. We then rewind to three days earlier to find six strangers (including the aforementioned feller) trapped in a different room. A trigger is set and the walls reveal heat coils. They realise they are inside a giant fan forced oven and scramble to solve a riddle to unlock a door to an adjacent room. That room is also booby-trapped, as is the next, and the next and so on.
If this sounds familiar that's because the synopsis is a shameless rehash of Cube... as in, identical to Cube. The only point of difference is the sophistication of each room, such as one appearing as an outdoor winter lake, and another as an inverted sports bar. Each passing room has its own set-piece, with its own perils, however the tropes and resolutions are incredibly contrived. Nevertheless thanks to an appealing set-design and relatively good performances, the flagrancy of ESCAPE ROOM's influences are easy to digest.
Robitel's direction is solid and he handles the tropes with confidence. He's under no illusion that his audience is aware of the influencing sources, and with that he piles on a creative flair that subdues resistance and grants him leniency. Surprisingly, though, he holds back on the gore and relies on the quirkiness of the story to carry him over the line. I'm sure this will rub gore-hound genre fans the wrong way, but the lack of violence has given him an entry-point into the PG-13 market, granting him more exposure to a wider audience. Smart.
The film's biggest weakness is its final act and resolution. Far be it from me to reveal the end-game, suffice to say it relies heavily on those aforementioned influences. The film would have benefited from losing the finale entirely and giving the audience a more ambiguous finish. But alas, the potential for a franchise is all too tempting and even though ESCAPE ROOM probably isn't strong enough to sustain more instalments, I have no doubt they'll try.
With all of that said, for me personally, ESCAPE ROOM is worth seeing at the cinema. Not because it's a big-screen extravaganza (far from it), but because we rarely get theatrical releases for movies like this anymore. We need to embrace these little ones so that exhibitors understand the want for more. Sure, Netflix is great... but the silver screen is better. This isn't a great film but it's a fun movie and will suit a young teen audience just fine.