Choose-Your-Own-Horror Series: A Pitch To Netflix

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience Bandersnatch on Netflix I am still amazed. I know that it’s old news, but I take pride in trying out trends after they have faded away from the memory of the public (just for the fun of it). 

My first encounter with Bandersnatch was absolutely delightful, not because of the episode itself, but because of how far we, as humans, have come in technological advancements. To be completely honest, I didn’t really pay attention to the story or the characters or the performances. I was so fascinated by the fact that I could select how the story turned out that everything else just became inconsequential to me. 

For someone who grew up watching TV through cable powered by the government (the kind that was replaced with static when the connection was lost), then through dish antennas powered by private companies (which went out when there was a single cloud in the bright blue sky) and eventually through online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, the release of an interactive TV program is as fascinating as someone experiencing LTE+ internet speeds after having struggled with 2G speeds their whole life. 

Surprisingly, watching (or rather, “directing”) Bandersnatch took me back to a very specific memory in my past—middle school. During that time, 13-year old me had recently gotten into reading books for pleasure. I started out simple with series like Nancy Drew, Famous Five and Secret Seven (very diverse, I know). But this trip down memory lane took me back to my obsession with a particular book series: the children’s horror fiction series by R.L. Stine called Goosebumps (1992-1997)*. This series dominated most of my pleasure readings throughout the seventh and eighth grades. My friend and I would regularly check Goosebumps books out of our school library to read, and we would discuss them during our lunch breaks (Oh! What a wonderful time that was). 

The reason why I was reminiscing that particular memory is because Bandersnatch reminded me of the last time I could choose my own adventure while experiencing fiction. For those who haven’t read a Goosebumps novel before, it is a horror story written in such a way that you can choose what happens next. You, as the reader, are the main character of the story. You start out with a little backstory and then you are slowly given more and more control over the story. Each page gives you a set of options at the bottom to choose from. These options are paired with page references, just like a redirect on a webpage. Your story would continue on from the page depending on what choice you made on the previous page. Each choice you make has consequences and leads to different outcomes. In the book series, all but one final outcome led to your death. There was just one happy ending, and your objective would be to make enough right choices to end up on the happy ending, just like the Bandersnatch episode. 

In essence, the Goosebumps books were exactly like the Bandersnatch novel (mentioned in the Netflix episode), except they weren’t so big and hefty. Usually limited to about two hundred pages, the Goosebumps book series was made for the entertainment of young teens, so it could easily be carried in a school backpack along with all the other books.  

Now—imagine a Bandersnatch-style horror series based on the original Goosebumps series. Each episode is interactive, you can select how you want to deal with the evil spirit or the scary werewolf and find out if you can survive. How amazing would it be to test out your survival skills against supernatural threats in a fun, interactive manner! And, even though the book series was written for children, picture the adaptation in a gory and scary setting, like an actual horror show. Or even better, imagine having the option of selecting how scary you want your experience to be for each episode—the outcomes and choices remain the same, but the visuals change to make it suitable for your tolerance level! 

Now, I know that Bandersnatch was potentially a one-time project to test what direction future entertainment could take, but my inner teenager cannot contain her excitement at the thought of one day experiencing one of her favorite book series being adapted on TV, in a way she never thought was possible.

Note:

*Throughout this article the Goosebumps series being referred to is the original series published from 1992-1997. There have been follow-up series and spin-off series for Goosebumps, however, I have only ever read the original series as those were the only ones available in my school’s library at the time. Since I have never personally read the follow-up or the spin-off, I am not aware of the structural changes that might have been implemented in those series. 

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