'Soul Mates' puts interesting spin on escape room movie genre, online dating

"Soul Mates" offers an engaging cinematic adventure centered around the characters of Jason and Allison, portrayed by the talented duo of Charlie Weber and Annie Ilonzeh. The film sets the stage with two unsuspecting strangers who wake up in a mysterious bedroom, their wrists bound together by gleaming silver handcuffs, connected by a three-foot chain.

Jason and Allison quickly uncover the eerie truth behind their predicament – they've been chosen to participate in a nightmarish matchmaking game, orchestrated based on obscure details from their dating profiles and past attempts to find their soul mates. Guiding this sinister charade is the enigmatic Matchmaker, portrayed by the seasoned TV and movie veteran Neal McDonough, who embraces the role with undeniable gusto.

The unlucky pair becomes ensnared in a labyrinth of challenges inspired by traditional dating activities, including drinks at a bar, karaoke, a romantic dinner, and a night at the movies. 

The film doesn't shy away from shocking moments as the characters are usually required to save the lives of strangers, family, and past lovers as they progress. Despite failing most of the challenges, the couple somehow survives and appears poised for a fairy-tale ending after they escape, only for the audience to realize that there are still 30 minutes left in this cinematic rollercoaster. And in the realm of cinema, 30 minutes can mean a world of unexpected twists and turns.

While "Soul Mates" may not be destined for a Best Picture award, it's far from a waste of a movie ticket. The story taps into the popular escape room horror trend, drawing inevitable comparisons to the iconic "Saw" franchise, which is far from a negative. And while it's not a comedy per se, the film manages to elicit chuckles from anyone who has ventured into the world of dating apps or endured a particularly dreadful date. It's likely that many viewers will exit the theater with reservations about online dating and ponder the lengths to which someone might go to win their affections.

Directed by the skilled Mark Gantt, known for "Murder in Mexico," and written by the talented duo of Chris LaMont ("The Au Pair Nightmare") and Joe Russo ("The Inheritance"), the film boasts a stellar cast. Neal McDonough delivers a riveting performance, complemented by Annie Illonzeh and Charlie Weber, known for their roles in "Chicago Fire," "General Hospital," "How to Get Away with Murder," and "CSI." The supporting cast includes Starletta DuPois ("Friday After Next"), Kayla Eva ("Haus of Vicious"), Taylor Krasne ("Pickleball"), and Saxon Cardenas ("NCIS"). Notably, Manny Halley, known for his work in the music industry, served as the executive producer for the film. The movie is distributed by Faith Media Distribution. 

"Soul Mates," rated R for its blend of bloody violence, sexual content, language, and nudity, is currently screening in multiple theaters across the metro Atlanta area, including Movie Tavern Tucker, which recently hosted a screening.