Great looking sets are upstaged by the sequel’s losing streak.
“When a horror movie gets campy, you know it’s an obvious bad idea to start a sequel” is how I began my review of the original “Escape Room,” which was practically “Saw” minus “Saw.” Meaning: people must escape from the escape rooms with falling floors, cold environments, and explosions, etc, and no organs necessary.
The best escape room, in my perspectives, was the upside down man cave, which was set in an elevator and the floors, or ceilings for that matter, were falling in the style of Musical Chairs. Aside from that, I didn’t care about the movie, because its main heroine Zoey (Taylor Russell) was generic and annoying, its premise was underdeveloped, and it felt like a cash grab for Sony Pictures, which distributed the film.
Now comes the sequel I warned them not to make with the subtitle “Tournament of Champions,” which means the people who survived the escape rooms must compete in a Tournament of Champions. Actually, they don’t care about competing, they care about getting the Hell out of the game. And I already want to get the Hell out of this franchise.
As you recall, the aerophobic Zoey tries to inform the authorities about the building that killed most of the players, but all evidence has been destroyed. And in this sequel, her therapist tells her: it’s her job to help her get better, not believe her. Regardless of what anyone believes, she and her new sleazy friend Ben (Logan Miller) both must travel from Chicago to New York City to end the sinister games, and find themselves in yet another game with other survivors, consisting of the travel blogger Brianna (Indya Moore), the jerky Rachel (Holland Roden), and the priest Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel).
They find themselves dealing with subway trains that shock you, banks with green security lasers that burn you, beaches that sink, and a downtown New York that rains acid. What do they all have in common? Their sets and props are all well-designed, once again, by Edward Thomas, and their special effects help bring them to life. But once we get to the acid rain, oh come on, this is silly. That escape room feels random, like the writers (Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, and Oren Uziel) desperately required something to make that room more dangerous. And while I was marveled by the production designs, I was not intrigued by its clues or puzzles, because they were often confusing.
There’s also a plot twist, involving one of the “deceased” victims from the original. For those of you are obligated to see “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions,” I won’t spoil it for you, but I can say you can guess they would survive. How? Because we didn’t see their carcass. We saw two, but not from the other two. And you have to be an idiot to not see that Jared Leto’s Joker survived that helicopter crash in “Suicide Squad,” but that’s a whole other story.
Out of all the new actors to come in, I did like Cocquerel for trying to have more sense than the other actors as a character willing to risk his life for the other survivors. Others are just lame and routine as they deal with the same fears, the same rules, and the same personalities. It’s exhausting, and its attempt to begin a franchise is exhausting. Even the ending wants to set up Chapter 3. They outta call it “Escape Room: The Final Round.” But if it doesn’t do well at the box office with some of the major new releases on track, I’d be glad we didn’t make it.