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(From left) Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Holland Roden, Indya Moore and Thomas Cocquerel in a still from Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (category IIB), directed by Adam Robitel..

Review | Escape Room: Tournament of Champions movie review – thriller series won’t be the next Saw or Final Destination

  • Taylor Russell, Logan Miller and the director of 2019’s Escape Room are back for this slapdash sequel that will leave no one satisfied
  • It fails to capitalise on the premise of the first film and, with its perplexing lack of blood and gore, misses the chance to draw horror-movie fans

2/5 stars

It hasn’t taken long for the recent escape room craze of problem-solving teamwork challenges to sneak into other areas of pop culture. Adam Robitel, director of lacklustre horror sequel Insidious: The Last Key, spun the fad into a life-or-death horror scenario for his workmanlike 2019 thriller Escape Room.

Taylor Russell and Logan Miller starred in that surprise box office hit, and now both return for this slapdash sequel, which simultaneously raises the stakes and lessens the impact of its predecessor by eschewing much of the first film’s ambitious world-building in favour of duplicitous gameplay reminiscent of Saw.

After surviving Escape Room’s deadly labyrinth, college student Zoey (Russell) vows to bring the shadowy Minos Corporation to justice. Roping in fellow survivor Ben (Miller), they return to New York, only to be trapped once again in a series of deadly escape rooms. This time round, their fellow escapees are all past champions of the tournament, while their fates are gambled on by anonymous wealthy viewers.

The first challenge is an electrified subway carriage, followed by a bank vault rigged with lasers, a giant hourglass, and a street corner showered with acid rain. Robitel and his six credited screenwriters do an admirable job of detailing the intricate mechanics of each individual puzzle room, every one more ludicrous and implausibly staged than the last.

What’s baffling is how little interest Tournament of Champions has in pursuing the numerous dangling plot threads left by its predecessor, despite featuring the continuing struggles of the same characters. It completely ignores the previous film’s cliffhanger ending – only to repurpose it in order to leave this instalment teetering on an almost identical knife edge – and the motivations of the Minos Corporation, instead focusing just on the players and the game at hand.

Logan Miller and Taylor Russell in a still from Escape Room: Tournament of Champions.

It is therefore all the more perplexing that the film is almost entirely devoid of blood and gore, the cameras panning away at the last second when characters meet their grisly fates. The film appears to emulate successful horror franchises such as Saw, Final Destination and Cube, but in a sanitised, teen-friendly manner that sidesteps all the elaborate kills that have come to define those films and their appeal.

This failure to capitalise on the first film’s promising premise, while also sidestepping the opportunity to appease gore-hungry horror fans, leaves Escape Room: Tournament of Champions trapped with no obvious way out.

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