Much like popcorn is essentially a conduit for me to ingest butter, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a means to an end of watching a group of strangers battle to the death. Is it nutritional? Probably not. Is it enjoyable? YES.
There are those audience members, such as my husband and co-producer Travis, who go into a horror movie purely motivated by the curiosity of what unique kills await. Then there are those of us, such as myself, who want the characters to have something to offer in terms of story development as well. The first entry in the Escape Room franchise (because, surely, there will be more) gave both sets what they wanted: a setting that offered unique kills that were designed for and motivated by the characters and the mystery that tied them all together.
This entry is tailored to those who liked the escape room setting and the horror entrenched therein. And make no mistake, each set did offer something new and grotesquely intriguing. There is tension as the characters oscillate between bickering and synergetic problem solving to escape a literal life-or-death trap. The climax was expected but the ending ultimately felt well-earned. However, the characters were unimportant (except for my precious boy Ben. Nothing must happen to Ben) and the story was ultimately forgettable.
The second film feels more tame because it is more tame – we know the who and the why of it all by the end of the first film. This means that the second should be bigger and more daring, but it is a PG-13 horror thriller that can’t afford to tank at the box office. As such, we get a fun enough movie. It isn’t bad. But if I had to choose, I’d rewatch the first time and time again, occasionally remembering that the second actually exists.
Also, fuck the trailers. They spoiled what would’ve been the best parts of the movie.