As any parent who has whisked their kids off to Disney World knows, the place where dreams come true can also be a nightmare. You endure long lines under the Florida sun, navigate crowds, lugging all the necessities for the little ones who turn into little Disneyfied demons, draining your bank account for meals, candies and at the gift shops that almost every ride steers you towards. You can’t escape the attractions without having to find your way out of a gift shop.
Randy Moore’s daring, comical and thoughtful low-budget debut, Escape From Tomorrow, incorporates such frustrations into its nightmarish take on Disney World, where a recently laid off father (Roy Abramsohn) spends his final vacation day with his family in Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but is plagued by creepy visions and possibly stalked by as many monsters.
The film’s notorious production has already eclipsed the final product. Moore shot his footage on Disney property, evading security at ground zero for one of the world’s most powerful and influential corporations. Disney maintains a tight grip on its brand, where the imagination is packaged and sold to the masses at exorbitant prices. Kids no longer have to dream because Disney does the work for them, while ensuring that no one tampers with their copyrights and distribution plans.
That Moore was able to take Disney’s own product and twist it into a disturbing, perverse, satire with very little tampering is remarkable in its own right. Moore does the trick simply by shooting certain amusements from an ominous angle with a discordant tune on the soundtrack, making Winnie the Pooh and his pot of honey seem hellish. You can’t help but feel that some of the CGI tinkering, where faces are rendered more menacing, is wholly unnecessary, since Disney’s attractions so easily lend themselves to the sinister.
There are a few gratuitous bits in Escape from Tomorrow, particularly where naked women are concerned, but none that dismantle Moore’s overall vision. His film doesn’t present new ideas but rather literalizes what came before, from the age-old rumors that prostitutes would serve Orlando visitors while dressed as Disney princesses to the ideas presented in Jean Baudrillard’s 'Simulacra and Simulation'—which argues that Disney’s imaginary constructs and signifiers is as real as the outside world, which is to say, nothing is real.
To the latter point, if Disney’s physical tour is meant to be an escape from the outside world and its realities, such an enterprise is perverted by the people who pass through those gates, whether it’s the employees who have their own gigs on the sides, the corporate entity and its agenda or guys like Abramsohn’s dad, whose personal issues (unemployment, a taste for young women) becomes what Baudrillard calls a 'hyperreality' at Disney World.
'Escape from Tomorrow' opens October 25th in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Follow Radheyen on Twitter: @FreshandFrowsy