Directed by Adam Robitel
Written by Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, Oren Uziel
Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Holland Roden
Real-world escape rooms have actually been shown to improve mental health and aid in dealing with daily stress. Obviously, with the new sequel Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, that is not the case. In fact, the participants (including survivors from the first Escape Room) are probably going to be scarred for life. That is, if they actually make it out alive.
In a textbook sequel, Adam Robitel’s Tournament of Champions builds out the world to unveil a much larger, more sinister plan at work beyond the grand architecture of the puzzle rooms themselves. Expanding the scope past the four walls of the original was probably inevitable, but the mystery sometimes gets in the way of what initially made the Escape Room premise so inherently fun and twisted.
After uncovering the truth about the MINOS Corporation at the end of the original way back in 2019, Tournament of Champions jumps right into the action. Following Zoey (Russell) and Ben (Miller) in their quest to expose MINOS, early clues lead them down into the bowels of the NYC subway system. When the doors lock and the tracks go dark, they quickly realize that everyone left on the subway car are actually survivors of other escape rooms. Before they’re all electrocuted, they must work together to solve one of the more clever riddles of the series that, of course, leads them to another more elaborate vault. As they all try to unlock clues and fight to stay alive, the puppeteer behind the curtain starts to materialize. And you just might be shocked to find out who is pulling the strings.
Also Read: Exclusive Video: ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS stars Logan Miller and Holland Roden on Surviving New Traps
If the central mystery is just that there are a group of elites using the MINOS Escape Rooms company as their own personal philosophy & ethics class, that’s already pretty sick. The irony is, if that’s the case, then we the audience are just as guilty as popcorn chomping voyeurs cheering on the sidelines. Wondering what we would do and if we’re smart enough ourselves to survive make us more invested. That’s a key reason to why Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is so undeniably watchable.
What this series needs to be careful of, however, is the trap of moving away from its core design. Once the real world starts to blur, it’s too easy for Escape Room to start bleeding into other franchises like Resident Evil, Cube and even David Fincher’s The Game. At its heart, this is an existentialist horror franchise and that’s part of the reason it’s so compelling. It taps into something deeper. Tournament of Champions is more epic than the original, but it gets dangerously close at times with falling in love with the setup and looking ahead to what is probably an inevitable third film.
Like its predecessor, don’t expect the kills to be too bloody, even if they’re still incredibly creative. One reality bending sequence involving acid rain is particularly hair-raising. (If “horripilation” was a horror subgenre, this would be on the shelf.) Director Adam Robitel is dying to get back into R-rated fare with the Insidious franchise, but he pulls back the reigns here. The plot may be too concerned with the ending at times, but the deaths are effective because of the setup, not the payoff. Inside the escape room, it’s a PG-13 world. You never know who’s really dead and if anyone can actually be trusted. If Tournament of Champions showed a graphic death, it would be a crowd-pleaser but it closes off the series to clever plot twists. Usually having a lot of writers credited on a screenplay is a bad sign, but here, endless ideas can be bounced around to help keep the audience guessing.
The escape room scenarios are suspenseful enough to drive the story forward. The inherent claustrophobia that’s already baked into the idea of these deadly puzzles should hold our attention. In other words, it shouldn’t be so easy to escape the escape room! Stick to the blueprint. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is anti-corporate. Every character seems to be rebelling from something and an evil giant overlord keeps trapping them back in a rat race of sorts. So, if you want to look for social commentary, it’s there, or we can all just go along for the ride.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions hits theaters this Friday, July 16.
Are you excited to check out Escape Room: Tournament of Champions? What did you think of this review? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @DrewSTinnin
Epic set pieces take the idea of adventure horror to an entirely new level.