There are some shows that need time to breathe; where it’s not clear until you’ve given it a few episodes to sink in whether or not it’s good. Netflix’s new hit series Stranger Things is not one of those shows. From the very first minute of the first episode, it was clear that I was in for something truly special, and for its entire run of eight hour-long episodes, creators the Duffer Brothers never failed to meet the expectations they had set for themselves. Stranger Things is spooky, touching, well-directed, well-written, and endlessly nostalgic for the eighties. If you want to go in entirely unspoiled, you can stop reading right there, and walk away knowing that it has my highest recommendation, and you should go watch the first episode immediately. If you want to know a bit more, click that read more link. I won’t be spoiling anything major, but there’ll be some minor ones.
When I was a kid, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers were all the rage. Five teenagers with attitude, who put on colored uniforms and fought evil with karate and giant robots? And the robots were dinobots? And they all come together to make an even bigger robot? It was like crack for 90s kids. We couldn’t get enough. I knew all of the rangers’ names and respective colors, their weapons, what their robots were…which is kind of funny, because I only actually remember ever watching one episode of the show (although wiki diving tells me I must have seen at least two, since what I remember combines this guy’s appearance with this guy’s powers ). I saw it over March break when I was home alone, and I remember the monster scared me so badly that after the episode was over, I ran up out of my basement rec room and didn’t go back down for the rest of the day. That I was still so into it despite never actually watching it kind of says something about the power of branded merchandise, I suppose.
For those who were too old, too young, or living under a rock in the early 90s, Power Rangers was a kid’s action show by Saban Entertainment, made by splicing together dubbed-over footage from Japanese Tokusatsu series Kyouryuu Sentai Zyuranger with new footage of English-speaking actors. The premise: When human astronauts unwittingly release the evil space witch Rita Repulsa from her prison on the moon, her ancient foe Zordon selects five teenagers with attitude to take up the fight against her. When Rita sends down monsters to attack the Earth, these five heroes transform into the Power Rangers to defeat them.
When I decided randomly to start watching the show on Netflix, I did so with an open mind. Sure, the premise is goofy, and I expected the special effects to be terrible, but even if the overall product was lame in general, there might be something interesting there. After all, a lot of shows I loved as a kid (like Space Cases and the 90s X-Men animated series) hold up surprisingly well on re-watch. Maybe this would be one of those.
I have never in my life been so happy to be wrong. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, at least in the first few episodes, is terrible and I kind of love it for it. It’s not simply bad; its disregard for basic storytelling, continuity, and common sense is so baffling that it borders on accidental Dadaism. I’ll give it one thing, though: it’s never boring. Good or bad, it’s a wild ride through sheer insanity.
If you’re like me, you probably enjoy a good spooky story. I’m a huge baby where scary stuff is concerned, but I sure do love getting my pants scared off. From the novels of Stephen King to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, it’s fun to be creeped out. And apparently the internet agrees with me, because over the past decade creepypasta, short horror stories written and shared online, have become incredibly popular. There are whole wikis and websites dedicated to collecting and recording them. The /r/nosleep subreddit gets dozens of new posts a day, most of them new original stories. In terms of sheer quantity, it’s never been a better time to be a fan of horror writing.
Unfortunately, most creepypasta aren’t very scary. In fact, most are pretty shit.
While Sturgeon’s Law suggests that 99% of anything is always going to be crap, what’s striking about creepypasta is that so many of them are bad in the same way. They start out promisingly, offering up some good creepy imagery and generating some effective atmosphere. But somehow, by the end, that atmosphere has evaporated entirely, and what’s left behind feels stagnant and dull. Even some of the better examples of the genre suffer from this problem.
So, what mistake are these bad creepypasta all committing? I think I’ve figured it out: their authors have failed to recognize that they are writing a fantastic story, and in the absence of the fantastic, the story itself just isn’t that interesting.
If you’re not familiar with ‘the fantastic’ as in the genre of literature, and only know ‘fantastic’ as in ‘really good’, that sentence probably didn’t make a lot of sense. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.