Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Adam Robitel
Stars: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Thomas Coquerel, Holland Roden, Carlito Olivero, Indya Moore.
The low budget 2019 film Escape Room tapped into the phenomenon of the immersive escape room craze in which a group of people entered a locked room and had to figure out cryptic and concealed clues in order to finally get out. Filmmaker Adam Robitel put a killer spin on the concept with his horror film and offered up some ingenious traps worthy of a Saw sequel, albeit less gory, with a group of people forced to make their way through its labyrinth of deadly rooms and booby traps. Escape Room was a surprise hit at the box office grossing over $100million, so it’s not surprising that we get this largely unnecessary sequel that serves up more of the same.
We again meet Zoey (Taylor Russell) and her boyfriend Ben (Logan Miller), who were the sole survivors of the titular 2019 film. Zoey is troubled by survivor’s guilt and is seeking professional psychological help. But soon she and Ben again cross paths with the sinister Minos corporation, the creator of the deadly Escape Room challenges, when they pursue a purse snatcher onto the New York subway. There they also encounter a handful of other people who have survived escape room challenges. Amongst these survivors is Nate (Thomas Coquerel), a former priest who has lost his faith; Rachel (Holland Roden), who is unable to feel pain; Theo (Carlito Olivero); and social media influencer Brianna (Indya Moore).
The six find themselves trapped on a runaway subway train speeding through the tunnels under the city. After they manage to escape from the train they find themselves facing other challenges – which include a bank vault complete with deadly laser beams, a streetscape drenched in acid rain, and even a beach with quicksand. The six bicker and argue as they struggle to interpret the various cryptic clues but learn that they need to rely on each other if they are to survive.
Four writers have worked on the script, including Maria Melnik (who worked on the original Escape Room), Will Honley (The Hive, etc), Daniel Tuch (tv series Burn Notice, etc) and Oren Uziel (Mortal Kombat, etc). The This is fairly formulaic stuff, and a suspension of disbelief is required with some of the more outlandish rooms here. The dialogue is often trite and cliched. Some of the deaths here seem less gory and gruesome than the original and the new characters are less than appealing. However, Russell exudes a palpable sense of tension and unease with her performance.
Robitel, who hails from a background in horror films, is again at the helm, which maintains a sense of continuity to the drama and the film’s claustrophobic tone and visual aesthetics. He maintains a fairly fast pace throughout proceedings and the film runs a tight 89 minutes. There is little padding here. However, we don’t learn much about the various characters here so, apart from Zoey and Ben with whom we already have a connection, we don’t really care about them or their fate.
As with the first film, there is some great production design from Edward Thomas (the original Escape Room, Monster Hunter, etc) to create the various rooms.
You don’t have to have seen the original Escape Room to get some enjoyment out of this sequel. But with a number of unanswered questions, the ending teases yet another potential sequel. But hopefully, unlike the Final Destination series, Escape Room sequels don’t continue to the point where they become too silly and tedious.
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