By Simon Miraudo
June 3, 2014
“Don’t let your imagination run wild” is advice given to our hero at the start of Escape from Tomorrow, and advice not taken by director Randy Moore, who filmed this nightmare phantasmagoria in secret at the Walt Disney World Resort. Over the course of one fateful day, Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) loses his mind in the Magic Kingdom while his wife and two children attempt to enjoy the rest of their well-earned holiday. Jim, just-fired from work and maybe-hallucinating much of this, finds himself beguiled by a pair of French nymphets, has a salacious run-in with a mysterious woman, makes a nemesis out of a wheel-chair bound schemer, and is warned of ‘cat-flu’ epidemic that might be responsible for sending him mad. Or maybe it’s the work of a witch. Hey, at Disneyland, anything can happen.
Escape from Tomorrow is as artful as any flick made in stealth can be. The circumstances surrounding the shoot – conducted on small cameras with the crew disguised as tourists – and subsequent release – thanks only to Disney not taking legal action despite the potential copyright infringement – are perhaps more interesting than the picture itself, which is often a gruelling watch. (For instance, If you want to see the park’s animatronic figures suffering from computer-generated dysmorphia, hear its looped music twisted inside-out, and, like Jim, enjoy frequent bouts of disorientation and motion sickness, this is the place to get it.)
Though the feature is entirely bewildering and lacking in structure (an intermission comes three-quarters of the way through) it remains consistently compelling. There are striking images and sordid moments that most independent filmmakers could scarcely hope to construct without the assistance of Disneyland’s monuments (and monumental crowds). The third act is particularly inscrutable, with several potential explanations given for Jim’s long day’s journey into night, all equally bizarre. But that’s merely fuel for the sure-to-be-inflamed after-film conversation. An incredible feat of satirical culture-jamming and gonzo movie-making, Escape from Tomorrow, for better or worse, won’t be forgotten by those who agree to buy the ticket and take the ride.
Escape from Tomorrow will be available from Quickflix on June 4, 2014.