Director: Frank Merle.
Starring. Malcolm McDowell, Paige Howard, David Dastmalchian, Billy Zane, Katerina Mikailenko, USA. 1h 30m.
Malcolm McDowell somehow manages to steal the show while only playing a small but vital role in this dark twisted interview from hell as he looks away a handful of top contenders for a new role in his powerful company allowing them to eliminate each other for the perfect job.
I was really impressed to see this “sub-genre” of interview/exam thrillers cropping up within the Escape Room horror genre. It’s pretty scary enough to have a few strangers locked in a room desperate to escape but when greed or desperation for a new job is also thrown into the mix there seems to be a heighten level of underhandedness in an already cut throat world.
Each candidate is entered in the first of a series of jobs interviews with their fierce future boss, played by the seasoned McDowell whose presence rightfully dominates his screen time, his no nonsense approach gives a great indication of his ruthlessness in the boardroom, and his determination to find the right person. But waking up in a locked room with a few strangers, it’s James (Dastmalchian) who starts to steer the movie. I haven’t seen him in much since Prisoners where he plays that freaky psycho with the snakes but in a total reversal he’s quite a pleasant and capable lead but he’s only just stands out in this mix of mad characters.
So after waking everyone up, only one character is injured, a large Aton Chigur look-alike who needed 5 men to take him out and get him in the room, the rest were much easier to subdue, but not all of them will be as easy to eliminate, while scouting the room they discover a mobile phone (possibly the smallest in the world) programmed to make only 5 calls (one each) and only to receive calls from the boss. initially they try to phone the cops but get an immediate call back instructing them to get rid of the attention and then the most dangerous rules are revealed, each time someone is eliminated they will get a code to unlock a panel on the wall, once all four locks have been released the last man standing will be released into their dream job. But these level headed go getters aren’t savages!?! or are they? Initially the plan is not to fight and for everyone to stay alive, so they lock up all their most dangerous items in an air vent, belts, high heels etc and make a truce. But bit by bit they begin to wear each other down.
The one room monotony is broken up by going back to the interview room where McDowell probed his potential staff with tough questions, after uncovering a new part of their personality or past the film returns to the dark sweaty room and then that person will react with this new piece of information, it gets a little predictable but it helps drive the movie.
Despite the repetition and corny approach the overtone is pretty dark, each person is pretty deadly in their own way and willing to kill for the job at hand, it’s not really a matter of staying alive or self defense, although there are some plot holes, no one is supposed to have any family but one guy uses his call to speak with his mother, and another girl calls her sister twice, but we get the idea, they won’t be missed and this company has enough clout to vanish 4 people for their interview process.
There’s a fair amount of blood and gore, some kills are more convincing than others but the highlight is the ever twisting and troubled plot is more about the manipulation and guessing who’s doing what and for what reason.
Not as detailed and accomplished as something like The Exam which sees a similar interview process, The Employer does have a few moral tales to tell, and a cracking ending graced with Billy Zane, why he takes this dead end roles I just don’t know but it was good to see him if only briefly!
R – The Exam (2009), Belko Experiment (2016), Gnaw (2008), Carnage, Chaos and Creeps (2010), From Jennifer (2017)
L – One room Horrors, Trapped in Fear
5s – Malcolm McDowell