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Escape the Undertaker an underwhelming horror entry from WWE and Netflix

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Escape the Undertaker

The idea was raised, nearly a decade ago, that WWE Studios might seek to produce a movie dramatizing the backstory of the character of The Undertaker and his “brother,” Kane. It was all spelled out in wrestling storylines years ago- The Undertaker’s parents died in a fire, although later it turned out that Kane was actually responsible. There was also the part about Paul Bearer really being Kane’s father. 

Silly as it all was, it sounded like perfect horror movie fodder, and almost certainly a better idea for a movie than anything WWE Studios has made in its entire history. That movie never came to fruition, but now, with The Undertaker (Mark Calloway) retired from wrestling, he’s starring in a different fictional project, firmly in the horror genre. It’s also won that mostly makes Taker the villain, even as he was a good guy for the bulk of his career. 

It’s called Escape the Undertaker, and it’s an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure-style project from WWE Studios and Netflix, seemingly timed for the month of Halloween. While WWE is now in business with Peacock as its primary streaming partner, Escape the Undertaker seems to have been conceived prior to that deal. The Undertaker was also the subject of a Last Dance-like documentary series, Undertaker: The Last Ride; that one you can watch on Peacock. 

Escape the Undertaker
Image: Netflix

Escape the Undertaker is both deeply silly and far from the greatest imaginable use of interactive gimmicks. But it does have some fun easter eggs for longtime wrestling fans, such as a corpse at the Undertaker’s basement morgue having the name “Isaac Yankem, DDS.” 

The film begins with Calloway-as-Undertaker wielding his powerful urn, and asking if the audience is “brave enough” wild it themselves. The majority of the plot has The New Day (Kofi Kingston Xavier Woods and Big E) visiting the Undertaker’s mansion while seeking the urn themselves and later looking for a key to it. 

The interactive part asks things like what approach the characters should take as they enter the house, and whether they want to go to the basement or a different room. 

The director, Ben Simms, has an interesting resume. He’s not from the wrestling world or the WWE production apparatus, but rather has mostly directed episodes of You vs. Wild and Running Wild With Bear Grylls

Escape the Undertaker
Image: Netflix

Overall, the horror isn’t that scary, the acting more suited to the wrestling world to the genre one, and once again, the interactive gimmick doesn’t add much. And an older white guy threatening to take the souls of young Black men is a bit too close to the plot of Get Out for comfort. 

Escape the Undertaker fills the need to fill in the backstory of these characters, in the unlikely event that anyone watching this isn’t a wrestling fan and doesn’t know who Undertaker and the New Day are. However, since the Undertaker’s wrestling career lasted close to 30 years, there’s a chance some watching might know him more from his feuds with Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior than more of his recent work. 

Ultimately, Escape the Undertaker is an interesting lark, but that’s about it. Now, let’s get that Undertaker and Kane movie, please! 

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Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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