Fantastic Fest 2013 Review: ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW Presents Disney World As Hell With Remarkable Power
Director Randall Moore insists that his movie was never intended to be understood as a guerrilla project and I believe him. His claim, a very credible one, is that he knew that Disney World was the only and obvious choice of location for his story. So he simply opted to shoot the necessary footage there.
There are so many things going on in Escape From Tomorrow that it seems like some impossible life's work project, something that could be tinkered with eternally. Yet in it's present form it already has a keen thematic edge and exploits it's central conceit, Disney World as hell, with remarkable power. Whatever flaws are here, and there are a few, it offers a disturbing peeling back of the veneer of commercially based happiness that forms the foundation of the American dream.
The setting: a man and his family are about to embark on their last day of vacation at Disney World when the man gets a phone call from his boss who fires him. Not wanting to ruin their last day he keeps his bad news to himself while the family makes the rounds, riding rides and exploring the magical kingdom.
But it isn't so magical for him anymore. What may or may not be hallucinations turn the park's beloved characters, animatronics and decorations into hellish creatures. When he isn't being tormented on the rides he's actively tormenting himself thru the pursuit of two very young teenage girls who keep crossing his path.
Soon his momentary glimpses of the grotesque are joined by apocalyptic visions where the infrastructure of the park explodes in flame and once happy crowds flee in terror.
He begins to drink, furthering his sense of displacement and in a startling last third uncovers secrets about himself and the happiest place on earth that will forever change the way viewers think about the park's theme song, "It's a Small World."
First and foremost director Randall Moore has written a compelling piece of modern dystopia. The Stepford Wives (1975), Westworld (1973), and Brazil (1985) all come immediately to mind but this is no simple pastiche of classic genre conventions. Dad's relationship to the House of Mouse is filtered thru an escapist sexuality, a self exploitive search for relief from the forces that are threatening his family. It's very uncomfortable watching his pursuit of the French teenagers. Moore achieves the difficult effect of making his character's pursuit of the underage girls all the more disturbing by highlighting via Disney's own well known architecture and urban legends regarding the "rental" of Disney Princesses by the lascivious and wealthy. It all becomes a symbol not only of the father's madness or consumerism run amuck but of true apocalypse, Disney burning while Mickey plays the violin.
This is simply must viewing for anyone who pays attention to what's going on in cinema. I do not recommend viewing it prior to that family vacation. I took the family to Disney a couple of years ago and it was, well.... really and truly magical. I'd love to show you the pictures. But just know, I'm not responsible for anything you might see lurking in them. I'm also not responsible for the raft of thought provoking images waiting for you in this film. Escape From Tomorrow offers not escape but prophetic visions and a glimpse of a great emerging talent.