Adam Robitel has steadily carved a name for himself in the horror sphere, with many coming to recognize his name initially with The Taking of Deborah Logan. Since then, audiences have seen him take on the world of Insidious in Insidious: The Last Key, and experiment with the addicting trend of escape rooms in the aptly titled, Escape Room. Now he is returning back to the world he originally created with the Minos corporation with the follow-up sequel, ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS.
For the release of ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, Nightmarish Conjurings got a chance to chat with Director Adam Robital, where we discussed what drew him to return for a sequel, the casting process, and how it was developing the rather intricate escape room designs featured in the film.
Hi Adam, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you once again. To kick things off, what made you want to return to the Escape Room world?
Adam Robitel: I always feel like for a sequel to exist, you kind of have to explode the doors a little bit and make the mythology cooler. With the success of the first movie, there were so many ideas that we’d had for rooms and spaces and stuff, so I think part of it was just going back into that sandbox again. Zoey and Ben were pretty beloved from the first movie and I think the audience really wanted to go on their journey, so it felt like it was worth the effort. And look, it was challenging. I mean, we killed people with fire and gas and gravity in the first movie. So, on this one, it was like, holy shit – how do we kill people in a PG-13 way that’s not going to rely on a reverse bear trap on somebody’s head, you know? [Laughs]. So, it was challenging but I loved the idea of no matter where you go, no matter what you do, you’re not safe. And this idea that you could be on a subway car near the city and have a derail, or even the motel scene, the idea that their trauma is informing their experience. And also coming out of a pandemic in a way now, like where we all feel like we don’t have agency over our own lives, that there’s powers that are influencing the world events and there’s a lot of conspiracy theories in this post-truth world. The idea of this omnipresent force that can be mined for many, many things.
With these characters, it’s so easy to form an attachment to them, especially with Zoey and Ben. Additionally, it was great to see such a diverse and inclusive cast. When it came to casting what was the process like?
Adam Robitel: I’m all about inclusion and representation. I always say I always cast the best actor and if they happen to be diverse great. It’s sort of part and parcel of like, I want my movies to represent the real world and all of its manifold beauty, and it’s been great! From Indya Moore (Pose) to Holland Roden (Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block) to Carlito Olivero (Bad Samaritan), and then Thomas Cocquerel (In Like Flynn), who was probably too attractive to have been a priest, you know, some people wanted a hot priest. [Laughs]. The heart of it all is really Ben and Zoe and so we wanted some great vibes from the other players. It was important to me to just have really cool people.
One of my favorite aspects about the first film was the production design which has come full circle again with this film. The beach scene, in particular, blew me away! How was it collaborating with BAFTA-winning production designer Edward Thomas for this film?
Adam Robitel: Unlike a lot of the other horror movies, we wanted to make these movies kind of beautiful in a way and that the rooms themselves are kind of magnificent. And we love the idea that there’s like a Jony Ive designer behind the scenes who really cares about the swatches and the titles and window treatments for the kills. [Laughs]. Ed took a lot of my scrap material from the first movie and then just took it and made it his own. He’s such a genius. The beach scene is a great example because when they come out [onto the sand] it’s live-action, then Indy Moore’s character, Brianna, takes a photo, and then all of the walls change. People don’t realize that’s a giant photograph that we put up on fabric 360 degrees – there was so much fabric we had to bring in from London. I was really inspired by David Fincher’s The Game and I think that’s kind of what was at least on the outside world before you get into the game. That was the mood, the cool blues, and the greens. And [Marc] Spicer, my DP, is just so good at mixing color and palette and making it really kind of cinematic. I’m glad you asked about that.
Since we have to wrap up and the film does leave us with a cliffhanger, I have to ask: are you planning on making these Escape Room films a trilogy?
Adam Robitel: We’ll see! I always say, let’s see if there’s a desire for it. It all comes down to bucks as they say [Laughs].
ESCAPE ROOM TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS arrives only in theaters on July 16, 2021. To learn more about the film, check out our review!