ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (unrated)

Escape from Tomorrow (unrated)

 
 
In a scene from 'Escape from Tomorrow,' a father (Roy Abramsohn) starts losing his mind while riding the 'It's a Small World' attraction with his daughter (Katelynn Rodriguez) at Walt Disney World.
In a scene from 'Escape from Tomorrow,' a father (Roy Abramsohn) starts losing his mind while riding the 'It's a Small World' attraction with his daughter (Katelynn Rodriguez) at Walt Disney World.
MANKURT MEDIA

Movie Info

Rating: * * * 

Cast: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Danielle Safady, Annet Mahendru.

Writer-director: Randy Moore.

Producer: Gioia Marchese.

A Mankurt Media release. Running time: 90 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, nudity, violence, strong adult themes. Not suitable for children. In Miami-Dade only: O Cinema Wynwood, Koubek Theater, Miami Beach Cinematheque.


rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

When Escape from Tomorrow premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, few people believed the movie would ever screen again. Shot without permission at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks in Florida and California, this unnerving fantasy dares to subvert the resorts’ family-friendly veneer in all sorts of queasy ways. Those beautiful women who dress up as the various Disney princesses? They moonlight as prostitutes for “rich Asian businessmen.” Those popular giant turkey legs sold at the parks? They’re actually made of emu meat. That giant Spaceship Earth orb that is Epcot’s most iconic structure? You have no idea what’s really going on in there.

But instead of going on the attack to halt the release and provide the movie with free publicity, Disney and the Siemens Corp. (which sponsors and designed several of the parks’ attractions) decided to allow Escape from Tomorrow to be shown with only a couple of minor tweaks (including a sternly worded disclaimer distancing the companies from the film). Shot on video using consumer-grade cameras, the movie opens on the morning of last day of the White family’s Disney World vacation. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) is fired via a phone call from his boss, but he decides to keep the bad news to himself so as to not ruin the trip. Instead, he goes along as if nothing had happened, riding the Monorail into the Magic Kingdom with his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) and their two young kids Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliot (Jack Dalton).

The usual business ensues: They pose for a family portrait in front of Cinderella’s castle, assure the children the Snow White’s Scary Adventures aren’t really that scary, queue up in hour-long lines for the most popular attractions. But there is weirdness afoot, too, such as the two bubbly French girls (Danielle Sadafy and Annet Mahendru) who are always scampering around, occasionally making curious (flirtatious?) eye contact with Jim. When the family goes on It’s a Small World, the dancing mannequins and singing puppets suddenly transform into demonic-faced monsters. When Jim tries to sneak a kiss from his wife during The Many Adventures of Winne the Pooh ride, she rebuffs him with something close to revulsion.

Writer-director Randy Moore channels everything from The Shining to David Lynch’s Eraserhead to depict a family’s gradual disintegration in what is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth. The movie was shot in black-and-white out of necessity (no careful lighting and staging required), but the monochrome scheme adds a surreal layer to the picture, draining the park of its resplendent colors, making it seem strange and vaguely threatening. A nighttime fireworks display is particularly striking, the blinding-white explosions a harbinger of the apocalypse.

Escape from Tomorrow was a low-budget production — there are some distractingly bad green-screen effects — and the acting isn’t always as good as you would hope (Schuber fares the worst as the nagging wife; she is supposed to be an annoyance to her husband, but she ends up annoying the audience instead). But the movie is filled with unnerving moments, such as a visit to a Disney clinic where the distraught nurse warns about a “cat flu” spreading through the park, or Jim’s encounter with a seductive woman who may be a real witch. The film pays off all of its visual and thematic elements, no matter how bizarre, and everything that follows the “Intermission” card that flashes on the screen after the one-hour mark is inspired, deranged lunacy. Escape from Tomorrow is more of an experimental film than a traditional narrative, but intrepid viewers — or anyone who has ever visited a Disney park — will enjoy getting lost in this dark house of happy horrors.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Dad (Ethan Hawke, right) plays around with his son (Ellar Coltrane) in a scene from “Boyhood.”

    Boyhood (R)

    Contrary to most dramas, which tend to dwell on traumatic or seismic events, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood argues that life is a compilation of small, everyday moments, an accumulation of the feelings and thoughts and emotions we start to gather from the time we are children. Shot over the span of 12 years, with the cast getting together for a few days annually to shoot some scenes, the movie charts the growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 5 to 18. Mason has an older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) and he has two loving parents, Mom (Patricia Arquette) and Dad (Ethan Hawke), who are divorced and live apart. Their relationship can be contentious at times, but they both care deeply for their kids.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

  •  
Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a war against mankind in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

    Yawn of the Planet of the Apes — excuse me, Dawn — has a big-budget sheen, a few terrific action setpieces and some of the most jaw-dropping CGI effects to date: You will believe these apes are real (although some of them are actors wearing costumes).

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category