“I think you just had a nightmare,” said Taylor Russell’s character, Zoey, to co-star Logan Miller as his character Ben woke up from a bad dream.
That sums up exactly how Escape Room: Tournament of Champions will make you feel after you sit through it.
When escape rooms were the big trend a few years ago, a horror movie taking place in one felt inevitable. Considering people pay to be locked in rooms for an hour (though the last one I went to gave my friend and I only 50 minutes, which is what we chalk our failure to escape up to), it is like handing studios a golden idea on a platter. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions feels like an obligatory sequel that was bound to happen when the first movie made over $150 million on a mere $9 million budget.
This franchise may never end because they cannot help themselves but to continue setting up cliffhangers at the end of each movie. Even if you half paid attention to the movie you could piece together what the final moments would entail. A character is returns at the end of the movie, but I don’t know how you couldn’t predict that character’s involvement with the story. In fact, that goes for a lot of the movie. What makes escape rooms great is the interactive nature of them. Even in a large group, you can split up responsibilities so that everyone is engaged. It becomes evidentially clear early on that watching people do puzzles is not nearly as fun, mostly due to the fact that the movie has to spoon-feed you hints while cutting between characters. The phrase “These must be connected!” or some variant are also endlessly used, though it means little to the viewer when you cannot really piece much together yourself. Unfortunately, while the “Escape Room” movies could be very inventive, they feel more or less like a teen-friendly Saw movie. With it being “teen-friendly,” studios have the chance to make movies that doesn’t gatekeep a younger audience from seeing horror movies that have a very relevant concept like escape rooms featured. It’s a shame, because the “Escape Room” movies feel like they could stand out on their own compared to Saw since escape rooms are something people regularly do. Instead you get the watered down movie that doesn’t feature real scares or stakes. It even brings back a character from the first who basically uses the “If you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen” trope that every franchise feels obligated to use at least once. This reveal was met with no reaction from the crowd of people in my theater, and maybe that is due to the fact that these types of horror movies don’t really require memorable characters. Let’s be honest, who really remembers the victims of Jason Voorhees? Moviegoers are there for the kills or traps in the case of “Escape Room 2.” Luckily, they don’t run into this issue too often since none of the characters are that likable to begin with. Taylor Russell is the closest thing to a likable character, but the rest is slim pickings.
When the inevitable third installment in the “Escape Room” series comes out, maybe they should realize that “less is more” when it comes to marketing. The trailer for Escape Room: Tournament of Champions shows way too much, you probably see bits of all of the escape rooms. That may have lessened the blow of some of the “twists” in the story. Even without that, it still failed to really generate interest outside of its premise. Escape rooms are always going to be a tough task to capture on the silver screen in an engaging way, but this is the path they chose, and it simply is a puzzling excuse for a sequel. It sets up more, but do audiences really want these to continue? Because it seems unlikely the big corporation behind these in the movies will ever truly be revealed. Even if they are revealed in the next installment, it is so easy to retcon that and simply say it was another red herring and start this cycle all over again. The “Escape Room” movies have yet to get past the concept being great, and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions doesn’t push the envelope in a positive direction.