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The Ending Of No Escape Room Explained

In recent years, a popular group activity has emerged as its own horror film subgenre – escape rooms. From "Harry Potter" to the 1980s, there's pretty much an escape room theme to suit any interest. But no matter the theme, the objective remains the same: unravel a series of clues and escape in a certain amount of time.

Several movies have given this concept a creepy twist, including "No Escape Room," which premiered on SYFY during the network's 31 Days of Halloween in 2018. Viewers are quickly introduced to Karen (Jeni Ross) and her father Michael (Mark Ghanimé), with whom she has a strained relationship following her parents' divorce. When their car breaks down in the middle of a small town and they're forced to kill some time while it's being repaired, they decide to check out a local escape room. Though Karen voices her fear ("It's probably in some creepy guy's garage, or worse"), Betsy (Kate Hurman), a waitress at the diner, ensures the pair, "You'll have one hell of a time."

At the escape room, located in a massive, antique mansion, Karen and Michael are joined by couple Melanie (Kathryn Davis) and Tyler (Hamza Haq), and solo guest Andrew (Dennis Andres). Host Josie (Brianna Barnes) informs them that the "inventor" is conducting strange experiments on theories rejected by the outside world. They must escape, otherwise, they'll meet their demise. Little do they know, Josie's tale isn't just an imaginative narrative brainstormed by an escape room company. The stakes here are very real.

How does No Escape Room end?

Upon entering the escape room, each guest is asked to sign a waiver. Soon after their one-hour countdown begins, they start to question what, exactly, they agreed to. They begin seeing things, such as bloody worms on a telephone and human-like shadows. As the five-some attempts to move from room to room, locating keys and solving clues, their party steadily dwindles until it's only Karen and Michael remaining.

When they realize that this is no ordinary escape room and that their lives are in danger, they make a break for it. Somehow, Karen and Michael transport from the house and back into the diner. While hiding in a bathroom stall, they spy Karen from about an hour earlier looking in the mirror, contemplating whether or not to wear a necklace her father gifted her. The same scene from earlier in the movie plays out, with past Karen sensing a presence. Though she's relieved when Betsy emerges from the next door stall, she still looks uneasy. Little did she know at the time, there's a reason behind her unsettled feeling. 

Present-day Karen and Michael exit the diner and see their repaired car in the parking lot. They're thrilled to be rid of this strange town. However, there's a padlock on the glove compartment and no key in sight.

No one ever gets out of the escape room

The padlock on the glove compartment isn't just an oversight by the mechanic. Rather, it shows that Karen and Michael's impromptu father-daughter activity is still happening. They have yet to truly escape the escape room and likely never will. Each guest that enters the house becomes trapped within their own time loop, which means their actions — and demise — are on a constant repeat.

For example, Josie is found in a closet covered in blood. Though the group assumes Josie is a really talented actress, Karen and Michael eventually realize that she's actually dying. Her time in the house, from greeting the group to her death, is played out over and over.

The same is true for Tyler. As Karen and Michael are trying to get out, they see Tyler, who is already dead at this point, taken captive. As Karen accurately puts it, the house is full of dark echoes of the past. Karen and Michael might technically be outside the walls of the house, but they're still trapped within their own larger loop. It's likely that, when they eventually fall victim to the forces of the escape room, their loop will reset and they'll live out these horrors in front of new unsuspecting guests. 

It's even possible that the entire town is in on the secret. It seems impossible for waitress Betsy to not know the horrific backstory of the house and to ignorantly send her customers there. 

Did the group hallucinate everything?

Before beginning her presentation about the inventor, Josie gives the group cups of tea. This begs the question: Is everyone simply hallucinating the horrors of the house? At some points, they are. For example, when Karen finds herself in a lower-level mortuary, she sees a ribcage as a full dead body. But other elements, such as the deaths of Tyler, Melanie, and Josie, are all too real.

On the Everlasting Hauntings podcast, "No Escape Room" director Alex Merkin explained how the tea is meant to open their minds to the paranormal elements of the house. The inventor, he said, was obsessed with contacting the dead after losing his entire family. Many years prior, he would invite guests over under the guise of dinner and games, but they'd unwittingly become part of his research to connect with the other side. The tradition now continues in the form of an escape room.

In the end, it seems that the inventor was successful in his attempts. Not only does the entire group interact with Josie, who met her demise who knows how long ago, but Melanie speaks with herself from 30 minutes in the future on the phone, who tries to warn her of impending doom.

"You can communicate with people who have been dead for a long time or that roamed these halls 80 years ago," said Merkin. "Maybe when you die, you can be communicating with yourself in the past."