Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the first follow-up to the 2019 horror movie Escape Room and sees the return of Taylor Russell as Zoey Davis and Logan Miller as Ben Miller, the "winners" of the first movie's rooms. As teased at the end of the first film, the duo heads to New York City with the hopes of exposing Minos, the company behind the escape rooms, and their sinister games. If you're a fan of Escape Room, then you will surely enjoy the follow-up, which is no better and no worse than its predecessor. While Tournament of Champions doesn't do much to elevate the genre, it's basically Saw for tweens, and makes for a nice option for any horror fan who can't get into R-rated movies.
The Escape Room sequel kicks off in the most obnoxious way possible; with a recap of the first movie akin to a network TV show's "Previously On" segment. If you don't trust your audience enough to remember the events of the first movie, at least find a creative way to do your recap. While this made for a rough start, especially when compared to the first movie's intense opening, Tournament of Champions eventually finds its rhythm.
It's not long after Zoey and Ben reach New York that they end up trapped in a new escape room, this time with four others who were all subjected to Minos' torture in the past. While the "Tournament of Champions" is a fun concept, it's hard not to wish they had used the idea further down the road. Sony is clearly aiming to create a franchise, and this idea would have been way cooler had they saved it as a fourth or fifth installment with a group of winners we'd seen before. However, all of the new characters were fine additions, with Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Indya Moore, and Carlito Olivero joining in on the fun. None of the performances particularly stood out, but it was exciting to see Pose's Moore in a horror setting. She definitely has "Scream Queen" potential, and I'd love to see her in something that packs a bigger punch.
Similar to the Saw movies, creating a follow-up to Escape Room forces the filmmakers to get more creative with their kills and, in this case, puzzles. In a horror movie that's so dependent on its formula, it's hard not to spend your experience comparing it to what came before. Some of the problem-solving moments in the sequel felt like guesswork and pure luck as opposed to the actual puzzle-solving of the first film. However, the intensity of the rooms remained and there were some unexpected twists and lots of fun set pieces. The stakes remained high, and I was engaged and rooting for all of the characters to survive. Director Adam Robitel previously teased that "each room is its own little mini-movie," and that's definitely an apt description. Unfortunately, none of the new rooms matched up to the trippy black-and-white room from the first one, but they made some cool choices with the new puzzles (if only they hadn't given away so much in the trailer).
The movie's fun moments and short run time make it hard to regret the experience. You get some thrills, take in some original scenery, and continue to root for adorable Zoey and her big ol' brain. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is by no means a must-see, but just like the first movie, it's a good little starter horror for young fans of the genre. If you liked Escape Room, the sequel won't be a disappointment. If you didn't like Escape Room, save yourself 88 minutes.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions will exclusively debut in theaters on July 16th.