Zoey Davis made it out.
She beat the evil puzzle masters at Minos Escape Rooms. And she helped her new best friend Ben Miller escape, too. You’d think that alone would leave Zoey at least a little bit happy. I mean she and Ben lived while other people died.
But Zoey is the exact opposite of happy. She still feels trapped and tormented by the fact that nobody believes that their imprisonment in elaborately devised escape rooms ever happened. The rooms were all destroyed, and the evidence lost.
Zoey is equally haunted by the fact that the foul and powerful individuals behind Minos are getting away with everything. For all she knows, they may be out there entertaining their rich, sadistic, peepshow clients with other escape rooms and other terrorized victims right now.
Zoey’s therapist tries to calm her down. She tries to get Zoey to think about moving forward and letting go of all the torments of her past. Every pen, purse or book you encounter isn’t some nefarious clue, the good doctor points out. There’s no deadly clock ticking in your life.
But Zoey can’t let go. She can’t get past the idea that those horrible people are still out there. And if Zoey doesn’t stop them, who will?
So she and Ben head back to New York. They start following clues that Zoey is pretty sure will lead them back to Minos and help them gather enough evidence to shut those villains down.
Before you know it, Zoey is proven right.
She and Ben do find Minos. And they also find themselves locked in a subway car with four other strangers. Four strangers who, at one point, had survived escape room terrors—just like Zoey and Ben did.
Now they’re all right back where they never wanted to be again: where every pen, purse or book you encounter is some nefarious clue.
And a deadly clock is most certainly ticking.
Though all of these survivors are angry at once more being dragged into a series of Minos escape rooms, the trapped victims—Zoey, Ben, Nathan, Brianna, Rachel and Theo—all work together feverishly to solve the deadly puzzles. They bandage and carry one another, as well as risking their own lives to help keep the person next to them alive.
We find out that Nathan is a former priest who was part of a group of priests trapped at one point in some Minos escape rooms. He was the only one to survive and wonders aloud why God saved him over the others.
At one point, Nathan decides to test God’s protection over him and he steps forward into a trap that knocks him out and almost kills someone else. Ben gets angry and calls him selfish for his actions. Later, though, Nathan puts his faith into action again by leaping into a swirling trap and saving someone else’s life as he’s swallowed up.
Zoey and Brianna both wear revealing tops. And though nothing physical actually happens, it’s implied that Ben would like to get intimate with Zoey.
There’s nothing terribly gory on display in this PG-13 thriller, but a number of people are thumped and pummeled, some are lightly bloodied and some die in the course of the escape room tests. Zoey recalls how each of the people in her first escape room trial fell, for instance, and we see quick flashbacks of those thumping, tumbling deaths during her narration.
In addition, a subway car is completely electrified with an increasingly stronger current. Numerous people are hit with painful zaps, and one victim is electrocuted. The survivors try but fail to revive him. People get sucked into a swirling, bubbling sand trap. Some are hit and sliced with high-powered lasers—leaving behind slightly bloody gashes in their skin and clothes. Someone puts her hand down on an electric hotplate burning a raw pattern into her palm.
A puzzle must be solved using the smeared blood from someone’s cut fingertips. A room floods with water and almost drowns a flailing victim. A gas line gets ripped away from a wall and the gas jet lit on fire, which sets an entire room ablaze. People are burned by acid rain. And later, a flood of acid reduces two people to mush (seen at a distance). Several people are knocked unconscious and then revived, while others barely escape being crushed by large heavy objects.
Two f-words and 25 s-words join some six repetitions each of the words “h—” and “a–hole” and a single use of “d–n.” God’s and Jesus’ names are each misused about a half-dozen times (with God’s name being combined with “d–n” twice).
Perhaps related to all of his struggles with faith in God, Nathan is also something of a drunk now. When first we meet him, he’s inebriated. After his flask is punctured, he drinks down the last few sips of booze left in it. Ben moves to light up a cigarette before Zoey stops him.
The first Escape Room pic featured people having their lives upended and challenged by cruel game makers who crafted potentially deadly puzzle rooms. And it was ostensibly all for the sake of secretly spectating high rollers with deep pockets. And in a sense, we were among those high rollers: looking on to see if the tormented victim mice would find the gorgonzola clues before the clock ran out.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is all that on a greased zipline. The pace is faster. The budget is bigger. The sets, clues and puzzles feel more elaborate. And the context is all the more impossibly ridiculous.
This movie ponders what might happen if those sadistic gamemasters were all-powerful. What if, instead of just having the ability to control a few rooms, those power brokers controlled everything!
Granted, for a short while, that all makes for a fairly adrenalized thriller as the trapped puzzle-solvers search frantically for small clues and struggle to save each other from impending doom.
But in the end, there’s one huge piece missing from this cinematic puzzle: a point. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is little more than 90 minutes of evil torment, frantic searches, overacted screeches and foul language. And moviegoers could well be left wondering if maybe they’ve spent the last hour and a half in the wrong room, too.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.