'Prank Encounters' Is Like 'Scare Tactics' With a Young Celebrity Host

Netflix's hidden camera prank show 'Prank Encounters' includes pranks done with some light horror, but people think the show is staged with actors.

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Apr. 1 2021, Updated 5:20 p.m. ET

Gaten Matarazzo in 'Prank Encounters'
Source: Netflix

If you remember the Syfy series Scare Tactics, then you are already familiar with the formula used in Netflix's Prank Encounters. The reality show takes unsuspecting people and allows their friends or family to prank them in various horror-themed scenarios. At the end of it all, Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo comes out to reveal that everything that had happened was fake and it was all caught on camera.

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Unlike shows like Punk'd, Prank Encounters isn't about fooling celebrity targets, but that's what makes it more authentic for some. For others, the show seems just a tad staged and, in their eyes, downright fake thanks to the reactions of the people on it. If that's the case, it certainly takes from the excitement of the show. Or maybe the people involved in tricking their friends are just terrible at acting themselves.

prank encounters season
Source: Netflix
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Does 'Prank Encounters' have actors?

While it's unclear how you can get cast on Prank Encounters, if it’s anything like Scare Tactics, then it only adds fuel to the fire of assuming the show hires actors. Scare Tactics creator Scott Hallock revealed to Reality Blurred in 2019 that they cast their subjects through a reality TV casting company. While this means the people know they may be on TV, it doesn't necessarily mean they know what they're getting into.

"When people apply with our casting company, they put down their names of their three closest friends or family members, and then, a few weeks or months later, we'll reach out to that friend or accomplice, and say, 'Hey, your friend doesn't know it, but they signed up for Scare Tactics. Would you help us with this prank?'" Scott said.

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For all intents and purposes, Prank Encounters is real. At least, that's how it's marketed from Netflix. If you ask fans, though, they'll often say the opposite. In fact, in a long Reddit thread about the validity of Prank Encounters, tons of viewers cited instances where they claimed there had been proof that the show and its participants' reactions were fake.

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One Redditor wrote that the lighting itself on-set is too bright and authentic as a TV set for those who are being pranked not to know they're on TV. Another user pointed out how the reactions from the pranked individuals seem so fake and are, at their core, evidence of terrible acting. But for now, the show itself is supposed to include real reactions from people who have no idea they're being filmed for a prank show.

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Sometimes the show's pranks can go wrong.

Even though the show is supposed to be authentic, it's still a production set and, according to host Gaten, things can sometimes go awry. He told Entertainment Tonight that there have been cases where a "mark," or an intended prank victim, has figured out they're on a hidden camera show too early. In those instances, those pranks were likely scrapped.

"Usually, anytime a prank goes wrong, it never is this big, dramatic fiasco," Gaten shared with the outlet. "It's very anticlimactic. It crumbles at the seams. Something happens, there's a reveal that happens too early or a mark catches onto something they weren't intended to catch on to that."

Watch Prank Encounters on Netflix.

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