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'Escape The Undertaker' Netflix Review: A Cheesy but Fun WWE Experiment

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2021

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WWE - Undertaker gazes at the crowd after what could be his final WrestleMania match on Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images for WWE)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

WWE is known as the biggest pro wrestling promotion on the planet, but the company has also dabbled in other forms of media over the years.

Original films, music, video games and comic books are just some of the other ways management has featured its Superstars, but Tuesday saw WWE try something for the first time.

Netflix released a short interactive movie called Escape The Undertaker starring The Deadman, Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods. While this might be WWE's first foray into this kind of storytelling, the streaming giant does have experience with interactive media after producing the hit film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. 

This could be viewed as an experiment by WWE. If the film is well-received, we may see more projects like this for other Superstars in the future.

Let's take a look at the story, the interactive aspect of the movie, the production and whether this is worth taking the time to check out. 

(Spoiler: From this point forward, all details about the movie will be revealed)

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The Story

The film starts out with The New Day approaching a mansion in the middle of the woods. All three members of the group seemed cautious but still approached the house with the intent of borrowing Undertaker's urn to add its power to their own power of positivity.

This is where the movie begins to follow tropes from the horror genre. As soon as they walk through the door, they split up to check out different areas of interest. As an avid Dungeons & Dragons player, Woods should have known better than to split the party. 

Once they are reunited, they discover a key is required to release the urn from its case. After searching the library and the morgue, because The Deadman, of course, has a morgue in his house, they find the two halves of the key needed.

However, they are warned that touching the urn will cause them to confront their darkest fears. The morgue contained the body of Isaac Yankem, but Glenn Jacobs did not appear to reprise his role as a corpse. 

A fight ensued with The Deadman easily handling all three men with the help of his supernatural powers. If you made all of the right decisions throughout the movie, there is one true ending.

                              

The Interactivity

Some might call a movie like this a "choose your own adventure" story, but that isn't the most accurate way to describe this. While choices are certainly part of the story, the paths never diverge to create a vastly different experience. 

One of the funniest parts of the whole movie is the first choice presented to the viewer. After the introduction, viewers are asked to select between "I'm ready" or "I'm too scared." 

Choosing the latter will immediately bring you to a joke version of the credits where every job is credited to The Undertaker. Some are listed as "The Undertaker as himself" almost at random. After a few seconds of this, you are brought back to the opening scene as The New Day arrive.

The next couple of choices are inconsequential. The three men split up to take a different room. No matter who you follow, you all end up back at the same spot. In fact, most of the choices are set up this way. It's more about choosing who you watch than changing the story. 

The only choice that really matters comes at the halfway point. Big E finds a vial of something labeled "Power" in the library. You must choose to take it if you want to achieve the true ending.

When each person is facing their fear, they are given a choice to join Undertaker to become one of his minions or stay loyal to their friends. The movie gives you the option to be a heel, but it also ends the story quicker and you are told that you are not worthy of the urn's power.

While Bandersnatch offered different experiences based on your choices, this film plays more like a video game. Each option you select will change some cutscenes but won't affect the end of the story drastically. 

Games like Mass Effect and Fable had choices that completely altered the narrative, but this movie is more along the lines of the Telltale games for Batman and The Guardians of the Galaxy. You're just along for the ride and occasionally have to press a button to proceed.

If you go into this expecting to be able to rewatch it several times to get completely different outcomes, you are going to be disappointed. 

                                 

The Production

The movie clocks in at just over 30 minutes depending on the choices you make. If WWE Network had not moved to Peacock, it would be easy to imagine Escape The Undertaker would have ended up on WWE's streaming service instead of Netflix.

The overall production design is decent. The house looked like it could be haunted at night and seemed like it could be a regular mansion during the day. This was no Addams Family homestead.

Some of the interior decorations looked like props and set-dressing from a low-budget movie that Svengoolie would love. The overuse of the fog machine adds to the cheesiness of it all. 

The music and sound editing are some of the strongest aspects of the film, but WWE has always had a top-notch production team, so that came as no surprise. 

In fact, this was shot more like a WWE cinematic match than a regular movie. It wouldn't be shocking to find out the company used its own equipment and crew to make this. The way everything is shot and staged feels familiar.

If you said the same people who made this did the Boneyard match at WrestleMania 36, people would believe you. 

The digital effects were used sparingly, which was probably for the best. Better lightning VFX can be seen in amateur films posted on YouTube than what we see here, but there is a certain schlocky charm to the cheapness. If you like so-bad-it's-good sci-fi and horror, this might be right up your alley for that reason alone. 

While we are on the subject of enjoyable bad movies, WWE should hire the team from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to play and mock this film. It would be incredible. 

                                 

The Verdict

Allred The Giant @AllredtheGiant

Just finished 1st watch through of #EscapeTheUndertaker. The 90s child in me loves how it feels like a Goosebumps "choose your adventure" book come to life + the 90s-esque special effects. Also, love the toe tag in the morgue said "Isaac Yankem DDS" 😂 Going for a 2nd viewing. https://t.co/so1ytfWrSj

All movies are subject to personal opinion, but if you are a member of the WWE Universe or just a fan of cheap movies that will make you laugh occasionally, Escape The Undertaker is worth taking half an hour to watch. It has enough fun to keep you entertained and is appropriate for all ages. 

Mark Calaway has been playing this character for over three decades. He knows how to be The Undertaker as well as he knows how to be himself, so his performance is exactly what you would expect it to be. If you like what he has done in the past, you will like him in this.

While all three members of The New Day are inexperienced screen actors, they each played their part well. Woods was definitely the best with his delivery. He did little things to make certain lines seem completely natural. He may have even been allowed to improvise a bit. 

GabeKing @bowdowntogabe

Just watched #EscapeTheUndertaker on @netflix. Very cool stuff! @wwe. #netflix needs to make more interactive movies! Or shorts! It was awesome! @undertaker @WWEBigE @AustinCreedWins @TrueKofi #TheNewDay

The chemistry of the three heroes certainly helped their performances. To them, this was probably just like filming a long backstage segment because they are playing the same characters they play every week on television, which are just extensions of their real personalities. 

Undertaker had his usual ill-defined powers, but WWE also threw in some characteristics of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise. He isn't quite as deranged, though. In fact, it's hard to fully classify him as the villain of the story because it felt like he was testing The New Day's worth to wield the urn like Odin testing Thor's worthiness to lift Mjolnir. He wasn't just torturing them needlessly.

Cal O'leary @CalSyruss

OK Ok #EscapeTheUndertaker is brilliant #TheNewDay and @undertaker have great screen chemistry @AustinCreedWins Mr Future King having the same energy as the #WyattCompoundMatch he doesn't mess with the supernatural @TrueKofi and @WWEBigE why do you guys keep doing him like that

Overall, this is an interesting experiment. With characters like Undertaker, Kane, Alexa Bliss, The Demon and Mei Ying of Tian Sha, WWE has plenty of options if it wants to tell more stories like this. 

Whether this becomes a Halloween tradition or remains a one-off, Undertaker and The New Day will always be able to claim they starred in the first interactive film from WWE. 

It's too bad Bray Wyatt is no longer with the company. A Firefly FunHouse movie would have been a natural next step. 

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