Photo via Sony Pictures

Escape Room, written by Bragi Schut (Season of the Witch) and Maria Melnik (American Gods) and directed by Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan), hits theaters this Friday, January 4, 2018, and marks the beginning of a whole new year of big screen thrills and chills for horror audiences.

It’s a particularly tricky spot for any film, and one that Robitel has only previously navigated under the umbrella of a larger franchise with last year’s Insidious: The Last Key which raked in an estimated $167 million worldwide with an impressive $30 million in its opening weekend.

Robitel is a gifted filmmaker, however, who possesses the ability to tell an intense, genuinely scary story that compels audiences to stand up and pay attention. He proved that in 2014 when The Taking of Deborah Logan, a film he directed and co-wrote with Gavin Heffernan, became the indie film that everyone was talking about.

It was, after all, those experiences that paved the road to Escape Room.

“Escape Room represents the first time I’ve been able to help develop a script and really mold it, as well as develop a film’s visual aesthetic from scratch on a studio level,” Robitel told iHorror. “Our biggest focus was digging in to character and really making them the biggest puzzles/mystery of the film. I did a lot of research on local Escape Rooms and saw how visual and art-directed the good ones are. I got really excited about how the space can transform as the players interact with the puzzles and this was super exciting when thinking about ways to make the film visual and visceral.”

In the new film, six strangers find themselves chosen to compete in “the most immersive” escape room ever created with a $10,000 cash prize upon completion. Unfortunately they realize far too late that the traps in this environment are designed to kill and their only way out is to work together.

“My team and I saw every room as a visual reset and a movie within a movie and that influenced everything from the design and lighting to the way the camera behaved. We also strove to really make the rooms extensions of the characters, sort of like stepping inside their subconscious minds,” the director further explained. “The Minos Organization has this creepy omniscience and the rooms were meant to trigger each player’s past trauma.”

Because of these factors, many moviegoers have compared the film to earlier franchises like Saw and Cube, but Robitel is quick to point out that while he’s happy to be in that company, that’s not how Escape Room plays at all.

“We’ve always envisioned Escape Room more in the vein of an unrelenting Hitchcockian Roller Coaster ride with perhaps a dash of Cabin in the Woods and Final Destination,” Robitel pointed out. “The rooms and spaces themselves are the final character and often the gore and kills are secondary to the unbelievable suspense we worked really hard to create.”

“Each room is like a Rube Goldberg device of death, but the are triggered and transformed, hopefully in startling ways,” he continued. “We set out to make a movie that is action-packed but also with characters that have deeply mysterious and painful pasts– the idea is that by going through the death gauntlet they might perhaps grow stronger on the other side. I’m very proud of this film and what we were able to accomplish and look forward to sharing it with the world!”

Escape Room, which was filmed last year in South Africa, has an impressive and diverse cast with Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil), Taylor Russell (Netflix’s Lost in Space), Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), Nik Dodani (The Good Neighbor), and Jay Ellis (Shortwave).

The film’s trailer alone has garnered over 8 million views since its release, and we’re betting that Robitel will have another hit on his hands this Friday.

Escape Room opens what promises to be a banner year for horror enthusiasts.

Not only are we expecting a slew of Stephen King adaptions including Doctor Sleep, Pet Sematary, and IT: Chapter Two and Jordan Peele’s highly-anticipated Us, but we’ll also (finally) be treated to Marvel’s superhero/horror crossover The New Mutants.

This is a year that promises something for every horror taste!

You can check out the trailer below and get ready for Escape Room January 4, 2019!