Why Stranger Things fans should give Prank Encounters a chance

Stranger Things- Credit: Netflix
Stranger Things- Credit: Netflix /

Prank Encounters was panned by most critics and met with some controversy, but here’s why Stranger Things fans, especially those who like Gaten Matarazzo, might like it.

Are you going through Stranger Things withdrawals too and need something to tide you over until season 4 releases? (Hopefully, our wait will be over around Christmas 2020. ) Have you watched Prank Encounters yet?

I’m not sure how I missed it. It released on Netflix in October 2019. Clearly, I was too busy binge-watching Daybreak.

It took four months before Prank Encounters hit my Netflix radar and found its way into my queue, but when it did, it was go time. Go meaning binge.

It wasn’t hard to do. As noted in “5 good shows to binge on Leap Day,” each episode of Prank Encounters is less than 30 minutes long.

The only thing is, you must have a bit of a macabre sense of humor. Apparently some people didn’t get that memo. I’ll get to that controversy later.

Scary Hidden Camera Show

If you ever watched Scare Tactics (which is also currently streaming on Netflix), Prank Encounters is very similar to that. (In fact, there’s even at least one actor who appears on both shows.)

Unsuspecting people are set up in horrifying situations that end up being a joke they’re eventually let in on. Eventually.

However, in Scare Tactics the unsuspecting victims were set up by friends or family members. In Prank Encounters two strangers are hired for two separate jobs that both end up relating to the prank.

Take the first episode for example, “Teddy Scareee!” One lady is hired as a babysitter while another guy is hired to help pick up charity collections. They both get the fright of their lives when it turns out the little girl in the story isn’t lying. The teddy bear is alive, as evidenced when it comes to life and starts attacking and killing the other people in the house.

The babysitter’s and charity collector’s reactions are hilarious. The situation is completely outlandish. Truly, a Stranger Things horror movie scenario playing out in real life. It’s easy to think, “This is so far-fetched. How can they possibly believe any of this is real?”

That’s the beauty of it. The actors who are all in on the prank guide what they call the “targets” so perfectly they have no choice but to think what’s happening is real.

Also, there’s the matter of the targets wanting to do what any new hire on their first day wants to do: make a good impression. They’ll go along with just about anything –until it gets too crazy and they’re about to lose it, which is about the time Gaten Matarazzo shows up to let them know they’re on his new Netflix show and it’s all just been a giant prank.

That’s what some people had an issue with. It stirred up a bit of a controversy actually.

The Controversy

Some viewers didn’t understand the targets were hired for temp assignments. They thought these poor people would find out they were the butt of a joke twice: once for being pranked, and again to find out the job they thought they had was not a job at all and they’d have to find work again.

Which was sort of true, except all victims were compensated for their time and they had only signed on for short-term, one-time gigs anyway.

There is a bit of an inherent mean factor in any prank show, but all the targets were laughing at the end when they were finally let in on the joke. I also don’t think any of them were scarred for life. If anything, they ended up with a great payment: starring in a TV show and meeting a Stranger Things actor. What a great story to tell!

The Episodes

The thing that’s fun about this prank show is that each of the eight episodes are in some way sci-fi or horror-themed.

Perhaps the two most Stranger Things-ish episodes were the fourth one, “Urgent Scare,” and the sixth one, “Storage War of the Worlds.” It’s not quite a journey to the Upside Down for the unsuspecting victims, but having aliens suddenly appear in different ways in both episodes certainly turned their worlds upside down.

Oh, and the last episode, “Split Party,” is one Stranger Things fans will especially like. It’s where Matarazzo plays himself. Like I said, he does show up at some point in all the episodes. In all cases at the end to reveal the prank, but sometimes he also plays along as an extra.

But in the last episode, an assistant is hired to help him for the day. She’s one of the targets.  The other is hired to help an events company set up for a little girl’s birthday party. The little girl wrote to Matarazzo to say that she’s his biggest fan and how no one showed up to her party last year. It would really make her day even more special if he came this year. Being the cool guy he is, Matarazzo accepts her invitation.

It goes south in a spectacular way with poisoned cupcakes and a crazy father. It’s elaborate and funny, but for me, the episode with the biggest laughs was episode 7, “Fright at the Museum.” The targets’ reactions in that one were so over the top “Nope! I’m not dealing with this!” that I couldn’t stop laughing.

I was a huge fan of Scare Tactics. I would’ve loved to be on that show. That’s why I was excited to discover Prank Encounters, especially when I found out “Dustin” was hosting it. I wasn’t sure how he’d do, but he brought an enthusiasm to it that added to the fun. Also, I couldn’t help but chuckle along with him as he orchestrated the scenes and directed the actors to hit their marks.

If you like Stranger Things, horror movies and hidden camera shows also and haven’t given Prank Encounters a watch yet, I recommend giving it a try.

If you’ve seen the show, I’d love to know your thoughts. Which episodes did you like best?

dark. Next. Stranger Things 4 possible release dates