Quick synopsis: A group of “escape room” winners are dragged into another one and picked off one by one
I reviewed the original a few years ago (as seen here) and I could pretty much post that review again, just take out a few specifics, the main points still hold up. The geography of the whole thing still raises questions, deaths are still seemingly forgotten too quickly, and it still seems too bloodless.
The story is better though, with some genuine surprises, including one comeback from the first film who everyone assumed was dead. This leads to a slight problem though. It’s emphasised “unless you see someone die, they’re probably not dead” to justify someone coming back from the dead after sinking in sand. Smart idea, just one problem. Two people died from that method, so is the other person still alive too? We’ll never know. I mean, we might know in the next film, but probably not.
And there will be a next film, and THAT is the biggest weakness. The first film ended with “but the company that arranged the killer Escape Rooms is still out there, and are planning their deaths by forcing them onto another Escape Room on a plane”. This film ends with “the company that arranged the killer Escape Rooms is still out there, and have forced them onto another Escape Room on a plane”. Yup, totally worth spending 90 minutes to get to that point. The worst part about it is that you KNOW it’s coming. The company have been shown to be all powerful so you know there’s no way this ends it. It doesn’t help that the way they’ve organised the traps feels cheap. I can’t remember if this was the case in the first one but in this one it’s like the games aren’t meant to be solved. Not in terms of difficulty, but in terms of the rooms are designed to work against the players. If it looks like they’re going anywhere the rules will change. An example of this is a bit in a train where the metal bars are electrified. Tense enough, right? But when the team starts doing well, the power gets turned up and electric bolts start shooting out everywhere. That feels like cheating. That’s the first trap. The rest continue in the same vein. As soon as the group starts figuring out what to do, the game turns against them. It makes the whole thing wildly unsatisfying as it just doesn’t seem fair. So when people fail and die, they don’t do it because they failed the task, they failed because the game cheated. It would be better if they failed due to them actually, you know, failing. If they weren’t smart enough, weren’t quick enough, too impulsive, or don’t follow instructions. Then the deaths feel earned. It’s not entertaining to sit there and think “they’re being competent, but it doesn’t matter as the odds will be unnaturally turned against them”. It’s also not entertaining to see them escape, but know they didn’t actually escape because you saw the “Oh no we didn’t escape, we’re still in the trap” from the next scene in the god damn trailer, thus being the second film in this franchise where all the tension has gone (second in a row).
But it then does the same trick again. After that fake out they have a puzzle involving acid rain, then they go into another room which they escape and take down the entire company exposing them to the world. Except they don’t, that was a trap too, and you knew that. You sensed it coming. The only way the “shock ending” would have actually been a shock is if it didn’t happen. That “none of it matters” feeling overshadows the whole film and stops you being invested in it.
Yup, that was a long fucking way to make a single point, but considering the franchise has taken two films to make that point, I stand by it.
So, how else is this different from the first one? Well this time everybody involved is a survivor from a previous tournament, which is a bit weird because after Ben was thought to have won his in the first one, the organisers said his “reward” was being murdered, and he only survived due to outside interference. If that’s the case for everybody else, then how exactly are their survivors. Also, we know how Ben and Zoey ended up on this train, but how did the rest? That’s an issue with the writing of this film, the new characters feel like that; new characters created for the sequel. They don’t feel like they have a history outside of this film. It’s a shame as the ones who were in the first one feel developed.