16th Dec2019

‘Prank Encounters’ Review (Netflix)

by Rhys Payne

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The prank show format has seen a decline in recent years but I can remember as a child watching the likes of Prank Patrol where they would prank unexpected members of the public which were hilarious and, to be honest, one of the TV highlights of my childhood. This was why I was extremely excited to see a new prank show on Netflix entitled Prank Encounters.

Having known Gaten Matarazzo from his fun role on the Netflix original series Stranger Things, I was intrigued when I discovered he was going to hosting his incredible show but he was actually the perfect person for this job. The show opened with a dark and mysterious vibe where Gaten delivers an ominous story to help set up the prank. It was really interesting to see him in a more serious role which is a sharp contrast to the jovial nature of his character in Strange Things but it worked excellently. He would then proceed to host the story and inform the audience of the progress of the pranks. What was really interesting was that Gaten takes on an almost directorial role on the show where he dictates the camera perspectives, when certain things happen and important lines for the actors to say. This was very exciting to see as it helps make the show stand out as it shines a light on the director profession which often is ignored on TV shows. To end the show obviously, there is a reveal where Gaten explains to the victims that it was all a prank etc and Gaten has one of those innocent and happy faces that it worked perfectly for this section of the show. His general manner helps to put the participants at ease at the end of the show which is exactly what it is supposed to do.

Prank Encounters is billed as the most elaborate prank show in the opening titles, which is due to the set up of pranks and complex background stories. But also this show contains two victims that cross paths and end up in a situation together. This helps add to the excitement as two strangers react with each other and how that dynamic plays out. I don’t know of a single of prank show that uses two unsuspecting people in the pranks which again helps this show stand out. At the beginning of the episode obviously, the two participants have separate situations for new jobs or something similar so these two contexts need to be explained to the audience and required the focus of the show to be split between these two situations. This means the camera perspectives go back and forth from the two situations which at times appearing frustrating and difficult to watch.

Of course shows like these do not follow on from one another and so you can watch this show casually when you can find the time. Plus the episodes are only 20 minutes long  – which means cramming all the “strory” and pranks into a short amount of time can mean Prank Encounters can be difficult to watch due to the intensity of it. And lthough each episode is unique, the actual structure of introduction, prank, reveal is the same in every episode, making it somewhat repetitive when binge-watching.

Overall Prank Encounters is a unique prank show that is unlike anything I have seen before. It is very dark and intense, hosted by the perfect host in Gaten Matarazzo who clearly loves the show itself. I woul encourage those who miss prank shows of the past to watch this show as it builds on the idea we are familiar with but also adapts it to help the show stand out!

**** 4/5

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