Returning director Adam Robitel had production designer Edward Thomas raise the stakes for the sequel to 2019’s “Escape Room.” The new challenges in “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions,” in theaters July 16, include a subway train, a gorgeous vacation beach that soon turns into quicksand and a high-security bank.
Thomas found an old art deco building in Cape Town, South Africa, to serve as the bank. “The bank floor becomes a character and the tiles depress when someone steps on them,” Thomas says. When “Pose” actor Indya Moore, who plays Brianna, touches the wrong tile, eight deadly lasers shoot out.
On set, string stood in for the lasers, which were created in post by visual effects supervisor Whitney Richman, says Thomas. “It was such a complicated sequence of events,” he explains. “The actors had a giant space to work in but couldn’t see the lasers.”
Even more complicated was the beach escape room. Thomas brought in 20 tons of sand to transform the stage at Cape Town Film Studios. His problem was turning that into quicksand. “We used hydraulics and gimbals that created the sinking effect for the characters to disappear into,” he says.
Special effects supervisor Max Poolman helped, Thomas says. “Max came running in one day saying, ‘We’ve liquefied sand.’ If you pump air into sand, it turns into liquid. It takes all the density out of it, and you can float in it.”
Ultimately, Robitel had to make sure the clues to solve each puzzle were laid out in an understandable way. “If it’s not clear to the audience, they are going to get lost,” he says.