Jim has just lost his job. This news is delivered over the phone while he is on vacation with his family in a theme park that is not not Disney World. Faced with trying to put on a happy face after receiving such terrible news, he is forced out into the park for a final day with his family, none of whom he seems to like that much. As Jim begins to hallucinate, he starts to follow two women through the park, leading him deeper into a delusion that may not be entirely his own.

How this film could be deemed “horror” is entirely beyond me. I fully expected to see a man completely unravel into a bloody mess of headless anthropomorphized mice and thin-waisted overdressed princesses. Instead, it’s more like watching a horror film that’s wrapped in political commentary about the financial state of the American family and the lengths to which they will go to enjoy themselves as conceived by Guy Maddin. When taken as an absurdist, almost experimental, film it doesn’t seem so strange that we’re following around a man who is seeing evil in the traditionally sweet rides at a Disney theme park.

Shot entirely without permission in one of the parks (assumed to be “World”, not “land” given the wife’s line “This is Florida, Jim”), the cast and crew spent three weeks pretending to be tourists, which might actually account for some of the deep hatred of the parks in the film. Some of the it was obviously shot on greenscreen with background stills subbed in, and it seems the only purpose to setting the film in Disney World was to attempt to goad the massive entity into legal action that would promote the film’s release. (Disney didn’t take the bait, by the way.)

Despite the fact that it could have been any major theme park, the point the filmmakers are making should still be noted. Jim loses his job and is then forced out into an ostensibly “fun” day with his nagging wife and two young children. He begins hallucinating on rides, but then becomes obsessed with two young French girls who are (inexplicably) alone in the park. Everything nice about the day becomes grotesque and often over-sexualized. The commentary here is potent: the American man has little freedom over what happens to him, even in the “happiest place on Earth”, where the shackles only seem tighter.

Is Escape from Tomorrow opening weekend worthy?

Escape from Tormorrow is a conflicting film. As long as you are firmly disabused of the notion that this is a horror movie, you will likely enjoy the strange and absurd nature of it. It’s definitely opening weekend worthy if you are a staunch fan of indie filmmakers trying new things.

Escape from Tomorrow opens Friday, October 25, 2013 at Cineplex Varsity & VIP Cinemas. Check their website for details and showtimes.

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