Campy. Mysterious. A spooky good time.
Escape the Night blends a fun mix of competitive reality TV and a supernatural TV show.
Started in 2016 by YouTuber Joey Graceffa for YouTube Premium, the series follows a collection of influencers coming together to solve riddles a 2nd survive imminent "death."
There's a creepy story that plagues the setting, and the game becomes more dangerous as the players move deeper into the competition.
Plus, there are a ton of challenges and escape room-like games to get you hooked!
Reality TV is my guilty pleasure, ever since Survivor premiered in 2000 with its competition format. And it's a genre that many fans and TV Fanatics are obsessed with as well. (Check out Sarah Little and Whitney Evans' amazing piece on the debate between Survivor vs. Big Brother.)
Escape the Night is another such series that has grown over the years to be a cheeky and fun cult favorite.
Be it the big personalities we follow through YouTube or the horror/mystery movie tropes, the series has something that appeals to many reality TV fans. Plus, if you're not into competitions, the overall plot feels like a show in its own right.
Just sit back and watch as the players fight demons, zombies, killers, and anything else dark that emerges within the night.
Escape the Night wrapped up its fourth season back in 2019 with an All-Stars run.
With no official word yet if a fifth season is coming (come on, Joey and YouTube!), now is the perfect time to binge-watch the series! Especially now, since Joey made the series available to stream for free while we're all at home during the quarantine.
Below, here are a few reasons why you need to check out Escape the Night!
1. Realty TV-Meets-Story
I lightly touched on this above, but it's an important element for understanding the style of the series. Escape the Night blends the framework of a reality TV competition in with a narrative happening around the characters. Think of this like Whodunnit?, Murder in Small Town X, and The Quest.
These were all reality shows where the players competed for a prize, but each round was tied to a plot revolving the overall mystery.
The players here would compete to "escape the night" and "survive" against the dangerous foe that sought to kill them. Each round would be tied to a mystery that would get them one step closer to the finals.
(Since these are all YouTubers and friends of Joey, the motivation for competing is typically for fun, exposure, and the experience.)
What makes this mix so much fun is that the elements of the game and the story are blended seamlessly.
You know going into each round that there are puzzles or missions that the players have to complete for them to advance. And, when it comes time to finding their relic or artifact, two people need to be chosen for a challenge where only one returns.
Though, when and how that elimination is presented usually keeps the players on their toes. Sometimes it's in the midst of an intense game when multiple players have been "captured," or after an exhausting round.
Also, the story alters what the players will be doing for the round, so it's never the same week-to-week. If you're tired of seeing the same type of obstacle course return, Escape the Night gives you variety.
One week it's exorcising an evil spirit, but in the next, the players are battling a murderous demon. The only constants are the inevitable eliminations and the fun confessionals.
2. The Interesting & Connected Plot
Escape the Night plays with a "movie sequel" approach rather than being an anthology series. Instead of each season being its universe, the plot picks up where the last one left off and continues Joey's adventure.
To quickly sum up the story (without spoilers): Escape the Night started as a dinner between Joey and his friends at his new home, which was mysteriously gifted to him and transforms them into a different era.
After people start dying, the group competes to make it back to their own time. Eventually, the plot extended to different eras and a battle against evil forces who collect the souls of Joey's dead friends.
There are many references to previous seasons and recurring characters that pop up throughout the series. If you're the type who likes to follow canon, there are moments here where you will smile.
The series has explored a Victorian estate, a supernatural mansion, an abandoned town, and an otherwordly museum; each with its own developed story and unique characters.
Out of the four seasons, the Victorian estate and the abandoned town had the plots and characters that hooked me the most. However, they're all a fun time.
3. Beautifully Designed
The benefit of Escape the Night shifting to these different eras each season is that the look and feel changes with it as well.
The sets are tweaked to channel the aesthetic of the periods. From the lighting to the small touches on the walls, a great amount of detail is put in to make it feel like the players are brought back in time; right down to the props and puzzles that the contestants play with.
Costumes play an important part in channeling this mood as well.
Each player is given an archetype that connects to a character from the era. They're dressed in an outfit that matches their role, which offers both function and fun.
This costume choice is also applied to the actors playing the supporting characters that guide the story forward. It makes the whole experience true to the theme of the story.
Plus, it's more believable when there are people in that era telling the competitors that something dangerous is coming.
We can't forget the special effects too!
For a reality TV series, Escape the Night takes a serious approach for how it uses its CGI and special effects makeup. The effects don't look overly staged or fake; the CGI translates well to the small screen and feels like a connected part.
The makeup team does a great job of transforming the actors into believable monsters for the players to fight. The more human-like enemies toe that line of believability sometimes, but it's not that major in the grand scheme.
Though, only the moment involving the dinosaur is where I took a step back and said, "Really? Alright then..."
4. Strong Casting
There is nothing more frustrating on a reality TV show than a bad cast. You can be frustrated by a bad strategic move or hate a dumb challenge, but if the players are boring and do nothing, the season overall suffers. Escape the Night overcomes this by having a strong cast each year.
By using YouTubers who have bright personalities and love the experience, it pulls us in as viewers to want to follow their adventures. Sure, there's editing that works out in their favor, but even just with their confessionals, they're still a strong bunch.
Escape the Night has featured many recognizable YouTubers like Colleen Ballinger, Tana Mongeau, Liza Koshy, Shane Dawson, Safiya Nygaard, Tyler Oakley, Manny Mua, and MatPat to name a few.
The casts typically have a great report with each other while still shining in their reality show archetype (i.e. leader, villain, etc.). This might be due to the cast knowing each other while working in the YouTube world.
5. Committed To The Realism
For this kind of show to work, those involved have to pretend that these events are happening around them. Playing both parts (the contestant and the survivor) is essential for making the story come alive. This applies to the actors in the supporting roles too.
Everyone who takes part in Escape the Night embraces the sheer insanity of the premise.
Of course, they're not truly being murdered or trapped in an otherwordly dimension, but they're acting as such to support the story and episodic narrative. They're playing the part that's needed outside of trying to win the competition.
This type of dedication is a huge positive because it's refreshing to have a cast (and surrounding talent) who want to take part in the experience.
How many times have we suffered from reality TV contestants who sit around and do nothing or just came on only to be insta-famous? (The guaranteed exposure is nice and all, but how about actually playing the game?!)
The Escape the Night cast makes the strategic moves, puts their effort into the games, and votes out their targets.
Plus, they act out any of the story scenes/reshoots that need to be done. It's a lot to sign-up for, but the end product showcases the work.
6. Did I Mention The Confessionals & One-Liners?!
Seriously, this is a strong category!
Escape the Night has a treasure trove of quippy and fun one-liners that will make you laugh. If you don't believe me, just search up any of the compilation videos on YouTube to see what the cast has to say.
Nikita Dragun, Bretman Rock, Gabbie Hana, and GloZell Green are just a few that light up the confessionals. The show delivers with the one-liners and GIF-worthy moments.
7. Escape Room Challenges
Escape the Night features a variety of mind games and physical challenges for the contestants to complete each week. It wouldn't be a reality show without the players going head-to-head, but it's the escape room-like puzzles that are at the core of the series.
Clues and riddles are placed throughout the round for the players to solve. Sometimes the challenge is as easy as winning carnival games, but in other instances, it's maneuvering your box through a hidden maze.
The range of difficulty varies, and if you're the type who loves playing in escape rooms (or any type of games like video games or board games), this will be great guesswork for you to solve.
And that's not even taking into account the eliminations or the finale challenges!
The attention to detail for the challenges are also a marvel to appreciate.
Complex puzzles. Intertwining locks. Pressure plates. A lot of work was put in to ensure that the game ran smoothly for the contestants as they played live.
Escape rooms are complicated to put together, so kudos to the teams who create them. I'm a perfectionist at times, so the level of planning and organization here is a complex masterpiece.
The challenges and puzzles aren't simple toys either. Just imagine the frustration that the players had trying to solve hidden boxes within their time limits.
8. Shocking Twists
What's a reality competition without a few twists?
Escape the Night has its fair share of surprises and twists that throw the contestants for a loop. These twists have varied from how players are voted into eliminations, who gets eliminated, and the fate of the challenge victory. (No spoilers here.)
The twists are used sparingly and don't affect the season as a whole, so whenever they do pop up, they have a bigger effect on the players' journey.
Though, there are a few instances of shenanigans that will make you grab your tinfoil hat and wish for justice.
Without giving anything away, the moments I have questioned involved Joey.
There are a few eliminations and twists that resulted from a "timely" instance which felt too suspect to be a coincidence.
Obviously, the show is all in good fun, and the game functions as normal to have players eliminated, so this all might stem from bad timing.
However, my intuition kicked up a few notches. The inner reality TV fan demanded justice for favorites getting eliminated ... or those not getting eliminated.
9. It All Comes Down To Luck
As much as elimination votes are the bread and butter of competitions, there's something about two players heading into the elimination based on luck that feels intriguing.
Contestants here vote for a player they want to see face elimination by selecting a tarot card with the player's face on it.
Cards are shuffled and then the season's companion (their ally through the mystery) draws two cards to reveal who will fight in the elimination challenge.
Just imagine someone getting selected because one person threw in a throwaway vote or a secret vote!
Luck plays a big part in surviving the night, and some players have been luckier than others since their cards weren't drawn at pivotal moments.
You can tip the voting in your favor with a little campaigning and strategizing, but one bad draw can throw the entire plan into chaos.
Escape the Night has benefited from this surprise element. It keeps you on your toes watching and hoping that your favorite doesn't have their card drawn.
What Escape the Night moment has been your favorite? Who do you want to see compete next?
Will we ever get Escape the Night Season 5?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Escape the Night is available now to stream via YouTube Premium.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.