Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers. The biggest draw to most horror-thriller franchises are sociopathic marquee murderers. Yet Escape Room: Tournament of Champions manages to uniquely thrive by placing focus on the characters’ environments, in this case intricately designed escape rooms, to develop thrills. While many might liken the reliance on the dangerous rooms to the Saw franchise’s gory traps, that series still prominently features a marquee murderer in the ominous Jigsaw.
In Adam Robitel’s feature, the only traditional villain “present” is the Minos Corporation, a shadow organization that tries to capitalize and predict human behavior in extreme circumstances. Their motivations make sense given that they’re name is an anagram for the word omens.
However, beyond the elusive Minos Corporation, the escape rooms themselves function as the true antagonists of the film. Each time Zoe (Taylor Russell) and the other contestants enter a room, the audience is given a new character to analyze. As the individuals try to crack the puzzle, we get a piece of the room’s characteristics; how each little element eventually reveals the dangers and weaknesses of the antagonistic space. The rooms even begin to interconnect with one another, telling a overarching narrative through the environments.
The use of the escape rooms as the antagonists does lead to some missteps. The third act get a tad convoluted in an attempt to find a more traditional villain. Yet, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is such a fun crowdpleaser, that you won’t mind the twists and turns it takes you on. Unlike a real escape room, I was actually disappointed when it was over!
The Silver Lining
The entire production design team, led by Edward Thomas, is to be commended for developing the escape rooms that work as the antagonistic forces in Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. Each “level” is wildly different in style, from the gritty subway car to the warped picturesque beachfront. While the way the contestants solve the puzzles is exciting, it would be nothing without a teriffic production design crew making nightmarish escape room plans come to life.
Catch Escape Room: Tournament of Champions now at a theater near you!