‘Escape The Undertaker’ WWE Netflix interactive film entertains even for non-wrestling fans

Written By Rachel Ross, For The Globe

3 Globes

With October upon us, and many eager to absorb all of the spooks and seasonal specialties that the month has to offer, I anticipated the usual batch of new Halloween movies and specials hitting theaters, network television and streaming services. What I wasn’t expecting was for one of them to be WWE themed; for me at least, that’s not exactly the first thing I think of when someone says, “Halloween.” Nonetheless, on October 5, Netflix released “Escape The Undertaker,” a half hour interactive Halloween special featuring several WWE stars.

The special follows the members of professional wrestling team the New Day, made up of Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E as they enter the mansion of retired wrestler The Undertaker, in search of his special urn. The trio quickly realizes that they are in for more than they bargained for when the urn captures one of their souls, and they are forced to search the spooky mansion for keys to unlock it. A series of tricks and trials along the way puts the group’s friendship to the test, as well as pushes each member to face their individual fears.

Before sharing my personal thoughts on the special, I believe it’s important to establish that WWE is not something that I would typically seek out to watch. With that in mind, I will mostly be looking at the show from a general entertainment aspect.

Going in, I was very interested in the interactive element that the special boasts. This “choose your own adventure” style gimmick isn’t something that’s exactly new to Netflix; it has been utilized in other shows and specials from the service, such as “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Black Mirror,” and “Minecraft: Story Mode.” I think it’s clever of the service to utilize this technology that isn’t possible in other mediums, like network television; it feels like a modern take on the interactive DVD games that were prevalent in the early 2000s. I thought that the use of this element was pretty well executed in the special. The viewer is prompted to make decisions a good number of times throughout. Although there is more or less a set story that you are led back to no matter what you choose, it still feels as though you have a significant level of control, as the choices you make often determine which New Day member’s perspective you see things through. The choices often have to do with picking where to go or who to follow, allowing for the special to be rewatched multiple times with varying experiences. An undo feature gives viewers the opportunity to go back to the last choice made and choose a different one, something that I heavily utilized to see as much content as possible for the purposes of my review.

However, in doing so, my experience lasted much longer than the advertised half hour, clocking in at over double that time. I personally don’t think that a runtime should be advertised considering the nature of the special; even if you didn’t undo any of your decisions, I severely doubt that each runthrough lasts 31 minutes, when some decisions lead to longer cutscenes than others. Ultimately, I felt as though it was a fun way to make the story more immersive and engaging; for those who didn’t show up just because of the cast, like myself, it offered a different incentive to give the special a watch.

As for the content of the special, without indulging into any spoilers, I thought that it was a pretty enjoyable family-friendly experience. I found it to still be entertaining despite not knowing anything about the people in it, which was something I was concerned about going in with the heavy tie to WWE. I did appreciate that they provided short highlight reels of The Undertaker and the New Day, for those like myself who are not familiar with them, and that understanding the plot was not contingent on prior knowledge of WWE. It was apparent early on why they chose to feature the New Day in the special; they had a good chemistry and energy between them that contributed heavily to the show’s entertainment value. As for The Undertaker, I wouldn’t say that he really did anything other than fulfill the villain position; his performance was kind of rudimentary to me. It felt more like he was featured for name recognition than ability, whereas the New Day managed to balance both.

Whether you’re a WWE fan, or just looking for some Halloween themed entertainment as the holiday approaches, I would say that Escape The Undertaker is worth a watch. It’s tame enough and short enough that you could watch it with the whole family; it’s more mysterious than it is spooky, and there’s very little fat to be trimmed from it. I’m sure that it’s more enjoyable if you are familiar with the people involved going in, but I found it to be entertaining regardless.