Written and directed by filmmaker Randy Moore, Escape From Tomorrow follows Jim (Roy Abramsohn) as he brings his wife Emily (Elena Schuber), daughter Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez), and son Elliot (Jack Dalton) to Disney World (though the name is bleeped out) for a vacation. The fact that he's lost his job remains unbeknownst to them and he intends to keep it that way. He wants this vacation to be fun so he keeps his mouth shut. Upon their arrival, what should be a good, wholesome time takes an interesting turn when Jim develops an unhealthy interest in two teenage French tourists, Isabelle (Annet Mahendru) and Sophie (Danielle Safady), both of whom would look to be underage. So taken is he with these young ladies that he starts making divergent plans in which he and his kids just so happen to be going to a ride near wherever it is that they might be hanging out. His family seems a little bitter and a little irritated by all of this, and so Jim ditches them and flies solo to a bar at Epcot Center. Here, he drinks too much all by his lonesome before wandering around the different parts of the park on his own.
As Jim stumbles around in an intoxicated state, things start to get strange. He starts seeing visions that may or may not be hallucinations and then from there? After he almost breaks down in ‘It's A Small World' he runs into a scientist employed by Siemens (who are named and not bleeped out)… will Jim be able to regain his hold on reality and save what's left of his family life or has he simply lost it?
Shot almost (though not entirely, as some awkward looking green screen footage will indicate) on location in Disney locations in Florida and California without authorization from the House Of Mouse, Escape From Tomorrow is an interesting movie. It's not a perfect movie, mind you, because the plot sort of meanders and the story comes in a distant second to the visuals and the concept, but if you dig on surrealism, social commentary and twisted humor you'll probably enjoy this one regardless. It is, after all, a movie about a man disintegrating in what is often times called ‘the happiest place on Earth.' Given that Disney on either coast is typically the dream destination of any vacationing child, it's interesting to note the roles of Jim's kids in the movie. They pick up on what he's up to and in many ways, they bite back worse than his wife does. Though the extent of the collapse here focuses on Jim, his family gets dragged down with him to a certain degree as well. He never seems to care when he loses them and the fact that he's gearing their ride-going to his fixation with French jailbait speaks volumes about his parenting skills and commitment level.
The performances here aren't going to blow anyone's mind but they work in the strange context that Moore has created with this picture. Roy Abramsohn is convincing enough when it all starts to unravel for him that he keeps us ‘in the movie' so to speak. There's just enough familiar distance between he and Elena Schuber as Emily that we can buy them as the distressed couple. The young ladies who play the French girls aren't given as much to do as Abramsohn and Schuber but they're well cast and they play their respective roles quite well. The same applies to the work from younger cast members Rodriguez and Dalton.
Though the script meanders and the plot tends to occasionally slip, the visuals here are top notch. Moore winds up crafting and interesting film, one that took some serious guts to even attempt to make in the first place, and if the end result suffers from some focus and pacing issues there's enough bizarre imagery and interesting ideas scattered throughout the film to make this worth a watch for those with an interest in outré filmmaking. Who knew the happiest place on Earth could be so frighteningly absurd under the right conditions? Probably more of us than some folks realize.
Escape From Tomorrow arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in 1080p AVC encoded high definition. Shot on digital video there's obviously no print damage here and the black and white image looks pretty much spotless. Though there are times where the cinematography isn't as spot on as you might expect, you've also got to take into account how this movie was shot, the cameras used and the details surrounding its very existence. Contrast is good and detail is quite strong for the most part. A few of the darker scenes show some minor crush and once in a while you might pick up on some shimmering but otherwise you get the impression that this is just how the movie should look on home video. Texture looks nice and natural, blacks are generally deep and strong and there are no obvious instances of noise reduction or edge enhancement.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also quite good. Optional closed captioning is provided in English only. The mix here is minimalist at times but it's generally pretty effective. Surrounds are used well but this is a movie where silence is as important as noise in many ways. Dialogue stays clear, levels are properly balanced and as you'd expect from such a recent movie there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion.
Extras are plentiful, starting with the commentary tracks. The first track features Writer/Director Randy Moore who is joined by the movie's cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham. As you'd expect, this track leans a little towards the technical side but it's quite interesting. Moore has some very interesting stories to share here about how the movie was shot, using the locations (in both Florida and California) that he did and how all of this came to be while Graham is able to chime in about specific setups and add some insight into the movie's unique visual look. Not to be outdone, actors Roy Abramsohn and Elena Schuber deliver a commentary here as well and they do it as their characters Jim and Emily. This starts off reasonably amusing in its own kind of way but quickly starts to suffer from pacing problems and long gaps where the participants clam up. The novelty wears off fairly quickly, unfortunately.
The disc also contains a fifteen minute long featurette entitled The Making Of Escape From Tomorrow. Aside from the typical cast and crew interviews with also get to hear from one of Moore's legal eagles who was responsible for keeping them out of prison for putting this film out there.. It's pretty interesting stuff. The input from Moore and his cast is interesting as well, but being that the legality of this movie is one of its more interesting aspects it's nice to see it covered here. Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical poster gallery, the movie's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. The keepcase comes housed inside a slipcase featuring identical cover art and copy.
Escape From Tomorrow isn't a perfect film but it is absolutely one worth seeing as it's completely unique and wholly bizarre. While it isn't a horror movie in the traditional sense, it's eerie enough that it should appeal to fans with a taste for more surreally dark material and Cinedigm's Blu-ray is a solid way to check it out. The audio and video are quite good and the disc contains a pretty strong selection of extra features too. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.