*Warning: Contains spoilers for Escape Room.
I’ll admit I watched the first Escape Room (2019) thinking it was just a cash-in on the popular trend of the same name, where people are locked in rooms and have to overcome challenges to get out – sometimes physical, sometimes mental (as I said only recently to a mate of mine, I escape from those kinds of rooms by not going into them in the first place). However, I was soon proved wrong as the original movie ended up being a masterclass in edge-of-the-seat suspense.
Escape Room 2 picks up pretty much where its predecessor left off, with survivors Zoey (Lost in Space’s Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller from Veronica Mars) on their way to confront the mysterious Minos Corporation again, the people behind the escape rooms they only just escaped from with their lives – Zoey having saved Ben from being strangled by the Games Master (Yorick van Wageningen). They have a new location in Manhattan to zero in on, but because of her experience of losing her mother in a plane crash Zoey goes against the advice of her therapist and travels by car instead.
Upon entering the derelict building, a vagrant snatches Zoey’s necklace – the one her mom gave her – and they give chase. The thief leads them to the subway where they find themselves in a train car with several other survivors from previous Escape Room tournaments: Theo (Carlito Olivero); Rachel (Holland Roden); Brianna (Indya Moore); and Nathan/Nate (Thomas Cocquerel). Each person has different skills and backgrounds, as per usual. Needless to say, it isn’t very long before they’re all participating in more games which this time include the threat of being electrocuted, being pulled into quicksand and burned to death by acid rain. As they make their way through the various levels and scenarios, solving seemingly impossible puzzles, there’s a final twist and shock in store. Who will survive this time?
In a lot of ways, Escape Room 2 is a re-tread of the first entry in what is looking increasingly like a series of movies. The games aren’t bigger or necessarily better, they’re just different (including a Resident Evil-esque laser grid this time). But what does remain the same is the excruciating tension at watching these people trying to work as a team and make it through alive. Literally nobody is safe, which ratchets up the stakes considerably. The bastard son of SAW and The Crystal Maze (if it had been designed by a psychotic maniac) really doesn’t disappoint and this is a franchise that’s not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve.
Though the bulk of the movie remains the same, the theatrical and extended versions that come with the Blu-ray and DVD offer quite different takes. Though only five minutes or so more, the framing device of the extended cut paints quite a different picture and goes more into the mythology of Minos and who is responsible for the games (the Puzzle Maker, Henry played by Star Trek Discovery and The Cape’s James Frain). What happens with him and his family, especially his daughter Claire (Orphan’s Isabelle Fuhrman) would have taken – or might still take? – the franchise in a very interesting direction.
Other extras include mini-featurettes Dazzling but Deadly (5 mins), Game of Champions (5 mins) and Upping the Ante (3 mins) which include all-too-brief snatches of interviews with the cast and crew, with a particular focus on returning director Robitel, plus stars Russell and Miller.
All in all, huge fun! It’s game if you are… Paul Kane