The fact that Escape From Tomorrow exists is enough of a victory to warm my heart. Filmed on the sly at Disney World over the course of six months, Randy Moore’s film recasts the “happiest place on earth” as a nightmarish hell, a place where something an innocuous as the teacup ride offers Kafkaesque journey through rampant consumerism and middle age fears. It shouldn’t exist. Disney lawyers should have quashed this film from seeing the light of day with one white gloved, oversize thumb, yet they’ve wisely chosen to ignore the film’s existence. The idea that you and I can even see the film is great, but the fact that it’s a damn near masterpiece makes it all the better. Escape From Tomorrow blends surreal horror, science fiction and fantasy into
The film opens with Jim (Roy Abramsohn) losing his job but keeping the news from his family so they can enjoy their last day of vacation. With his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) and his young son and daughter in tow, Jim just wants to survive one last day waiting in hour long lines in the sweltering heat before heading home. He ends up getting a lot more than he bargained for in the guise of a pair of French Lolitas that seem to be around every corner he turns, a deadly flu that is spreading through the park, an evil Queen and a just under the surface conspiracy hinting that Jim is a cog in a much more grandiose plan.
Escape From Tomorrow’s greatest achievement is the way it nails the hell that is family vacation. As anyone who has ever traveled with young children in tow understands, a holiday is often where you find yourself at your worst. The kids never behave, there’s zero chance of any romance with your partner and the overbearing heat, overpriced concessions and repeated traversing on rides geared towards adolescents leave one feeling exhausted, frustrated and longing for a return to the comforts of the cubicle.
Abramsohn’s performance as the beleaguered Jim anchors the film in a way that makes it easy to follow the proceedings despite the increasingly bizarre behaviors and interactions. Jim is a leech for sure, and when the film focuses on him stalking the two french teens with his prepubescent son in tow there’s a level of discomfort that feels more real and unsettling than anything else I’ve seen in a long while. As a central figure he’s also an unreliable narrator. His mental problems are hinted at early on in just enough a clear way to make you question what is “real” and what is his psyche leading him into fantasy territory. The film turns the amusement park in to a surreal Wonderland, where darkness, evil and despair lurk around the corner of that benign children ride. The Alice in Wonderland comparison seems appropriate given the number of allusions Moore makes throughout the film, including one of the creepier takes on the iconic Cheshire Cat image.
Watching Escape From Tomorrow I could not shake the old Monty Python motto from my brain: “And Now For Something Completely Different. That’s what this little black and white film is to me. Something completely different from the norm, and something wonderful and worth watching. It contains enough meat for no two people to watch it and share the same experience. Whether you take away the covert digs at consumerism replacing real interaction or the ways it deconstructs suburban middle class nightmares, the film is smart, beautiful and inspiring.