Netflix film, 2021
Earlier this week, Netflix released another of its trademark interactive films that put the viewer in control. Frankly, I don’t see what Netflix offers that Sega CD, Philips CD-i, or Panasonic 3DO couldn’t provide nearly three decades ago. And much like Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties starring GLOW’s Jeanne Basone, this one features figures from the world of wrestling.
Now, I know that whenever I have to delay an induction, I usually give some super obscure clue about its subject matter that only make sense after the fact. But this time, I got lazy and made it glaringly obvious:
INDUCTION MOVED TO FRIDAY
This week’s induction deals with something so new, it’s been available for less than 72 hours. No hints this time, except for this:
Did you catch that? Yes, I said the induction would be delayed until Friday – in other words, a New Day. And that’s who’s in this movie, called Escape The Undertaker!
The premise of the film is that the New Day want the Undertaker’s urn for its supernatural power, so they visit his haunted mansion.
At first, The Undertaker won’t let New Day into his home when they show up at his door. And it’s not for the reason you might think (namely, that they are too positive). No, Taker apparently doesn’t even know who Kofi, Big E, and Xavier are and needs facial recognition software to identify them. Now, Undertaker would’ve recognized them in a flash if any of those guys were on NXT (whose median viewer age is 62).
Undertaker reconsiders when he realizes he could feed their souls to the urn.
See, according to lore established way back at the beginning of this short film, the urn is a source of evil power that feeds on the souls of the good. Now, if you know your WWF history, you’ll know that the urn hasn’t been evil since 1991, when Hulk Hogan dumped out the human remains stored within.
Since then, it has always been a source of light…
…or green smoke.
And while the urn has been dented, melted down into a gold chain, and otherwise desecrated over the years…
…it has never blasted anyone with pink shock wave who tried to touch it, as in this film.
A montage of Undertaker matches plays on his many monitors to establish just how important the urn is as the source of his power. Almost every clip is from 2008 or later.
When the New Day first split up like the Scooby Gang, Big E decides to have some fun and sit in Taker’s chair, which turns out to be some weird sex thing. His wrists and ankles bound, the chair begins to drain E’s soul until the rest of the New Day come to the rescue.
The three otaku now must find two keys to unlock the urn before an hour glass runs out and it steals Big E’s soul completely.
Speaking of weird sex things, the Undertaker has got a real kinky set-up in this mansion of his, from the dozens of hidden cameras scattered throughout the house…
…to the naked pagan ritual paintings on the walls…
…to the dummy head of Hakushi in the dungeon.
I swear Escape The Undertaker isn’t the first movie ever filmed in this building.
The movie’s main gimmick is its Choose Your Own Adventure-style branching paths that let you decide the fate of its characters. But in most cases, you’re simply choosing whether certain events occur on- or off-camera. Do you watch Big E and Xavier Woods solve a Zelda-style puzzle, or do you watch Kofi wander off and see the Undertaker eat a sandwich? Either way, E and Xavier are getting that key, and Undertaker is getting a savory treat.
Likewise, Kofi is still going to ride across the floor with a cadaver, whether you stick around to watch it or not. Either way, he nabs the second key (and avoids elimination in the Royal Rumble).
Then there are choices that are absolutely meaningless, like when you get to choose which member of New Day the Undertaker gets to easily fend off.
The movie even starts off with a meaningless choice: Even if you decide the Undertaker’s mansion is too scary, you still get sent in along with Kofi and Kompany.
Admittedly, if you do go that route, you’re first treated to some phony credits that are probably the funniest gag in the whole film. Truly, being Director of Photography is the greatest undertaking of all.
Yet for a movie starring the New Day, Escape The Undertaker is surprisingly lacking in humor. That is, unless you watch using the audio track for the visually impaired. That way, you get some often hilarious running commentary that really highlights the absurdity of some of the scenes.
Big E slowly losing his soul to the power of the urn?
Kofi confronting his fear of professional inadequacy?
The Undertaker having a midnight snack prior to murdering Kofi Kingston?
As for the film’s dialogue, it’s nothing special, save for a few clunkers, like when The Undertaker has Big E’s head locked in a box full of spiders.
Teasing the WWE Champion with bolt cutters, Taker swerves E:
“No no no no no no no no no. It’s not gonna be that easy,” says Undertaker, before immediately explaining how easy it will be. “All you gotta do is join me.”
Elsewhere, New Day notice a picture of Paul Bearer hanging in the mansion. “Yeah, I know. Isn’t that creepy?” says Kofi. Of all the lines in the movie, this one stuck out as one written by someone totally unfamiliar with the WWE product. Shouldn’t such long-time wrestling fans as the New Day be used to Paul Bearer’s appearance by now? And what’s so creepy about someone displaying a picture of their late friend and father figure? But after hearing Paul Bearer described for the blind, I guess Kofi has a point.
There’s also this line that was clearly not written with British viewers in mind.
There are also a few weird references in the movie…
…like the body in Taker’s basement morgue that’s ID’ed as Isaac Yankem DDS, yet is 5-foot-something with dark hair.
Paul Bearer appears through archival footage, with cheap visual effects and audio stutter in the style of Max Headroom. You know, the ‘80s TV character and New Coke spokesman. Obviously.
And while I really doubt this one scene is referencing Johnny’s emotional breakdown in The Room, I already made this gif, so I’m going to include it anyway:
The climax of the film is the battle with The Undertaker, who, unlike in the rest of the movie…
…now has a full head of hair.
And now he’s coming not just for Big E’s, but for all of New Day’s souls…
…or, as he puts it, “YERR SOULZZZ”.
Defeating Taker seems impossible, especially when he starts shooting lightning out his fingers like a more decrepit Emperor Palpatine.
Plus, he can fly, as seen in (by far) the worst shot in the whole film…
…though, technically, he doesn’t so much fly as get pulled up by strings with the grace of an old man trying to feel his way to the bathroom without his glasses.
Do the New Day get the urn in the end? Well, that depends on a precious few choices you make along the way.
First, if you choose to join the Undertaker or otherwise reject the power of positivity, you will lose your soul immediately and have to re-do your last choice.
If you always do what’s right, you’ll end up getting zapped out of the mansion, but without the urn.
But the only way to get the true ending is, upon finding a vial labeled “Power” early in the film, to pocket the highly suspicious mystery drug like any sensible person.
Then, in the fight with the Undertaker, you must then ingest the liquid and smash the urn with a sledgehammer.
Wielding a sledgehammer? Gaining extra power from the contents of a vial?
Where have I seen this before?
Having banished the urn forever (because it was haunted), Kofi, Xavier, and Big E exit the mansion via a magic casket that works like a clown car.
And as for you, the viewer, The Undertaker himself gives you some reluctant applause before covering the camera with his hat, which the visually-impaired are led to believe is something profound and frightening.
All in all, Escape The Undertaker could have been a lot worse.
Could it have been a lot better? Yes.
Would it have been better off as a mobile game? Yes.
Is it bad? Yes. But at least it’s not WWE Films bad.