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  Escape Room: Tournament of Champions The Adventure Game
Year: 2021
Director: Adam Robitel
Stars: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Isabelle Fuhrman, James Frain, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Carlito Olivero, Matt Esof, Jamie Lee Murray, Wayne Harrison, Deborah Ann Woll, Lucy Newman-Williams, Scott Coker
Genre: Horror, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ever since Zoey (Taylor Russell) made it out of a series of elaborate traps set by a mysterious organisation designed to provide murderous amusement for an unseen elite, a desire has burned inside her for justice, for while she got away, her collaborators did not, and she is determined to get even. Well, she did manage to save one man, Ben (Logan Miller), who is so grateful that he has been following her around and supporting her in her quest: you don't often forget the woman who saved your life, after all. However, the more they investigate, the harder it becomes to pin any one culprit down... and they may be watching.

The first Escape Room was a genuine sleeper hit, as fair enough, it was one of those cheapo horror movies studios release in January in lieu of wasting their publicity budgets on blockbuster fare in the post-Christmas comedown, but those efforts are usually supposed to be lowest common denominator garbage for the easily pleased, those cinemagoers happy to watch anything to get out of the cold and therefore undiscriminating. Yet here was a chiller with something publicity could not buy: great word of mouth, and similar to Saw before it, despite no big stars and with nothing but a high concept, it succeeded on a grand scale.

Russell was back for the sequel - so, technically, was Deborah Ann Woll, third-billed despite only being in the opening catch-up of a run through of events from the first instalment, and Miller had made it back too, but this was evidently supposed to establish an Escape Room universe (another element drawn from the Saw franchise). That meant an initial ten minutes of back story from 2003 where we watched the Puzzlemaster (James Frain) establish his ingenuity accompanied by serious bad guy credentials by murdering his wife in a specially designed sauna trap. Only his innocent daughter (who grows up to be Orphan star Isabelle Fuhrman) can stand up to him.

Back with Zoey and Ben, their tries at getting into what they suspect is the base of operations are scuppered by a thieving junkie, leaving them stranded on a subway train. However, in a twist that has you thinking, that's a mighty coincidence, and then thinking, eh, if I think too much it'll spoil the movie, the carriage they are in turns out to be one of the traps, and the titular champions their fellow passengers. Now the carriage is increasingly electrified, and they have to complete a word game to collect tokens to save themselves, and we are well and truly off into the conundrums of the Escape Room realm, carrying with it the enjoyment factor of watching someone work out a particularly fiendish computer game, except the stakes for the characters were higher.

If these items were ridiculous and depended on a heck of a lot of suspension of disbelief, you could nevertheless appreciate them from minute one to the end credits as little marvels of the screenwriter's art, where they committed to a pulp premise with such faith in their material that you were happy to watch them achieve what they set out to do. The story arc was almost superfluous to the escaping, you would be tolerant of it despite it smacking of desperation in explaining why all this was happening (pleasingly, though, nobody here tearfully asks, "Why are you doing this to me?!") because it was simply an excuse to get to the next room and the next game. And if the screenwriters (a lot of them) were adding polish and smarts, the set designers were going one better, no matter the lower budget these were some of the best manufactured horror flicks around, with visuals cluttered but clear. Yes, it was far-fetched, but that was part of the fun. Way better than it needed to be, basically. Music by Brian Tyler and John Carey.

[AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD & KEEP OCTOBER 4 AND ON BLU-RAY, DVD AND TO RENT ON DIGITAL ON OCTOBER 18 2021.

GAME MASTER EXPOSED IN EXCLUSIVE EXTENDED CUT WITH OVER 8 MINUTES OF ALL-NEW FOOTAGE INCLUDING ALTERNATE BEGINNING AND ENDING - this is the version reviewed here.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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