Disney has made a fortune selling happiness to children young and old. Each of their theme parks seep joy at every turn when, for some, that’s just not the case. Escape from Tomorrow is an ambitious, albeit low-budget, film that tries to show a journey into the darker half of the theme parks.
The film follows Jim (Roy Abramsohn) and his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) along with their two children as they spend one final day in Disney World. At the start of the film we see Jim get laid off over the phone by his uncaring boss. What follows is his descent into madness in the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Almost from the very start it is clear there is something wrong. His children seem to disobey him at every turn and his wife clearly doesn’t respect him anymore. All he is looking for is one more day of relaxation and fun before returning to real life and dealing with the repercussions of his losing his job. What he gets is a living nightmare.
Shot entirely in black and white the film focuses on the near claustrophobia of the park and the eclectic people that inhabit it. One of the most trying points in the film comes early on as the family rides “It’s a Small World” and Jim seems to have his first freak out. The puppets on the ride seem to come to life and his children turn into demons. This, clearly, is not for kids.
The film itself is all over the place but this may have to do more with budget and filming concerns. The entire movie was shot on location at both Disneyland and Disney World, without permission from Disney. This guerilla-style of filmmaking makes the movie feel even more alive and twisted. The plot goes in some truly strange directions tackling fears like having your child kidnapped, fighting in the park, having your children turn against you, a secret base under Epcot and robot scientists.
Certain portions are pure Gonzo and those are the parts that shine the most. Sadly, there simply aren’t enough of them and they tend not to be related to each other. Escape from Tomorrow should be admired for its ambition alone. Regardless of the actual story, under director Randy Moore’s lens the entire park becomes the most interesting character. Much likeMedium Cool before it, putting actors in real locations allows the locations to come alive.
Taken as a whole, Escape from Tomorrow isn’t nearly as crazy as it could be, but should be viewed by anyone that has ever visited the park, especially parents. Given how it was made there is a good chance this film may never reach mainstream audiences so expect the movie to become an instant cult classic.
Watch the trailer on iTunes. In theaters and VOD October 2013.