By RACHEL REEVES
In the new movie ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, the nefarious Minos group introduced in the original 2019 breakout hit strikes back with a vengeance. Sneakily assembling the survivors of previous escape rooms, Minos ups the ante by creating a very special game for this very unique group of individuals. Amongst this assembly of top-tier players are Ben (Logan Miller) and Zoe (Taylor Russell). Introduced in the first ESCAPE ROOM film, this unlikely duo quickly became the emotional anchor that gave the high-intensity thriller a beautiful and unexpected injection of genuine heart. Now, Ben and Zoe are back to once again challenge Minos and their friendship in the process.
Known for his acute ability to balance humor and heart, Miller has quickly become a fan favorite face to see on screen. Along with ESCAPE ROOM, Miller’s recent horror credits include appearances in projects like We Summon the Darkness, Prey, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and The Walking Dead. In celebration of the ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS release, Rue Morgue spoke with Miller about his second brush with Minos, reconnecting with the ESCAPE ROOM team and why he loves working within the horror genre.
The Ben we meet in the first ESCAPE ROOM film is quite different from the Ben we meet in this film. How did Ben’s Minos experience change him and how do we see that reflected in this new sequel?
Yeah, he was a sick, smoking, cynical asshole in the first one. [Laughs] And let’s be honest, he somehow only survived through the grace of the insanity and now has a second chance at life. So, you know, we gotta pull out the bootstraps and it’s time for him to take a leadership role in this. He wants to help Zoe any way that he can and he feels indebted to her because she is part of the reason that he’s alive. It’s time for him to be the real action hero and I think that really shows in this movie. Ben and Zoe are the ones to kind of take the reins and continue the journey. We’re the enforcers that kind of get everybody to team up along the way and keep it going.
What was it like working with Taylor Russell again and really developing that relationship between Ben and Zoe?
Taylor is one of the greats. She was such a joy to work with in the first one and to have her back, it was like I had a companion through the completely torturous war rooms. Everybody was very excited to be on this one that was new to the franchise, but we were there to kind of assist everybody, give them a little bit of warning of what to expect and you know, continue this amazing franchise that we’ve been able to be a part of. She was there every step of the way and if I was tripping, she’d help me when I would fall. And I would do the same for her.
You just mentioned the new cast, and this new batch of champions is pretty amazing. What was it like working with these new folks? And then, if you had to pick, which character do you think makes the strongest teammate?
It’s always great seeing a new colorful cast come together, and I think that while they’ve amped up the rooms themselves, they also amped up the cast and the characters that they got together. Each person has their own unique sensibility and they bring that in full force. Especially given the fact that they’ve also been in a different escape room experience. We all have these preconceived notions of what these escape rooms are going to be like, however it’s unique because it is the “Tournament of Champions.” They’re going to throw a loop on all of our belts and it’s time for us to come together. Carlito Olivero as Theo was such a strong person that I think he really could have been somebody to give it all of his effort within the movie.
There are some pretty inventive and cool new escape rooms in this film. Do you have a personal favorite?
Personally, it was the New York City subway. Because, here we are in Cape Town, South Africa making the film and we walk onto set and we are on the Q train at the Canal stop. I was like, “What the hell is going on here?” If my life wasn’t strange enough, it is now. [Laughs] It was unbelievable to see the immaculate detail that they were able to bring to that escape room. I mean, it was even the minute things where they even had gum under the seats. That was really there! That’s what is so great about these films; the attention to detail.
Speaking of the crew, it’s cool to see the return of Adam Robitel as the director. What was it like working with him again on this new sequel?
The boys were back! It was Adam and Marc Spicer the cinematographer, and they are such a great duo. Just like having Taylor there again, it was great having the producers, the director and the DP from the first one too. We really knew what to expect. You know, this one still threw us curve balls as well, but at least we were able to kind of have that speed bump and know what we were getting ourselves into. Adam is just such a detail oriented guy. I’ve said this about the first one and I’ll say it again for this second one, the attention to detail really is what makes these films pop. If it worked the first time, hey, it’ll work the second time, right?
It’s been really wonderful to see you in so many horror projects over the years. What is it that you enjoy about acting within the horror genre?
Well, I’d say that the horror genre has really evolved in such a crazy way. As our world has been kind of tumultuous, it’s like all of these elements of horror are seeping in through different genres. I really resonate with that because it’s like…there is a strange element to life in itself, and these stories are getting more and more fun and complex. It’s not just the fun slasher pics anymore. It’s these movies that really make you think and bring out something like, actually physically horrific in reality. I think it has a great element of experimentation where some genres might not have that. I think as horror fans we’re really accepting of people trying something different and that’s what I’m drawn to. I’m drawn to the unique experience no matter what the story is.
Do you have any fave genre films you’d like to share with us?
Yeah! One of my favorites from the last couple of years is Climax by Gaspar Noé. I think that is such an insane film and insane to know that they kind of like, improv their way through that. And then I love the Nicolas Cage movie, Mandy. What I’ve seen recently? Oh god. I’m watching a bunch of strange films here and there. I just watched How to Get Ahead in Advertising and I’ve been just trying to find very, very strange films to watch. I also really want to see A Quiet Place II. I still haven’t seen that one yet.
ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS is in theaters now from Columbia Pictures.