Black Mirror: Bandersnatch / Girl Scout Cookies (GSC)

If you're familiar with my review format, you'll know each one essentially pairs a cannabis strain with a horror movie and provides a brief review of both. But this particular entry is going to veer away from that formula just a bit. For starters, this isn't going to be a review, per se. Instead I'm going to spend more time detailing the events leading up to my viewing, the experience, and most of all what was going on in my head as I watched. Think of this more as a "story time" or a "trip report" than a standard movie review. If you're looking for a Black Mirror: Bandersnatch review, here is the TL;DR version: It's really good. Watch it!

But why write about it on a site dedicated to horror? After all, this latest Black Mirror offering isn't really even horror at all. It's more of a choose-your-own-adventure interactive FMV game wrapped into a psychological thriller. The reason is because, unbeknownst to me, it would ultimately prove to be one of the most terrifying experiences I've ever had watching a movie high. But in order to understand the reason requires a little backstory.

About a year ago a friend of mine whose dabbled in smoking cannabis a couple times was curious about edibles. Personally, I'm not a fan of edibles. But being the good friend I am, I gave him a few 10mg capsules and explained that he should only take a single one since it may take up to 90 minutes to metabolize before feeling any effects. He was excited to try it that night and I was equally excited to hear about his experience. The next day I called. He didn't answer. The day after, I called again. He didn't answer. I began to worry and sent him text messages to call me back. Ghost. A week later, he finally called.

During our conversation, I quickly learned why it had taken so long for him to follow up. Apparently, that evening subsequently an hour after taking a cap, he wasn't feeling anything so he took another. About 30 minutes after that the effects (from the first capsule) began taking hold. It only got worse from there. Much, much worse. Long story short, in the thick of his meltdown he convinced himself that our nearly 20 year friendship was all an elaborate plot for me to tear down his guard, earn his trust, and then reprogram his brain. That's right. He thought I was reprogramming his brain! Because... weed. Anyways, unable to walk, he sat alone and cursed me while pondering his new reality. How would he continue providing for his family since he was obviously incapable of holding a job anymore? How would he get around since he could no longer drive, let alone walk. In his mind, it was all my fault and he hated me for it.

Fast-forward a year later. He watches Bandersnatch and suggests I check it out stoned. Not high, but proper stoned. My gut reaction was, "Don't you think it'd be too intense? And besides, When I'm stoned the last thing I want to do is to muck around with making choices. I just want to veg out and consume." He paused, thought for a bit, and then assured me, "No way, man. You gotta do it." Then I distinctly remember a little chuckle before reiterating, "Yeah, yeah… you have to do it." I didn't think anything of it at the time and wrapped up the conversation by saying I'd take him up on the recommendation and watch it stoned. He even suggested I do review afterwards to which I immediately said, "Nah. It's not really horror, is it?"

That night I wanted to select a strain that would take me to another dimension. I've had consistent results from plenty including LA Confidential, Blackwater and Banana OG, but I reached for a classic - Girl Scout Cookies. Sometimes referred to as GSC or simply Cookies, this strain is legendary for taking travelers on euphoric and occasionally psychedelic journeys. An indica-dominant hybrid that's crossed between OG Kush and Durban Poison, GSC produces frosty nugs that are tight, but not quite as densely packed as a strains further up on the indica spectrum. And while the aroma is distinctly sweet, the flavor leans more into the woodsy domain. To further guarantee the results I was hoping to achieve, I set aside my bubbler and spoon and summoned my 10-inch, two-chamber, double 8-arm perk bong to undertake this assignment.

Relevant side note... I'm not a chronic user to begin with and, on top of that, had just come off a week long T-break so my entire endocannabinoid system and all its receptors were open for business. I was a bit worried about ripping an entire bowl after an extended break but threw caution to the wind and decided to go big. After all, I only have one shot to get baked out of my mind and watch Bandersnatch for the first time so I might as well. And rip I did. No casual hit off a bubbler or toke from a joint to feel a little high. Nope. I packed that bowl until it was overflowing with product, deflated my lungs with a long meditative exhale, lit some hemp wick then devoured every bit of plant material in one single massive rip. As I exhaled a plume of smoke my head immediately began to sizzle and new I was going to be in for a wild ride. Little did I know just how wild it would become.

Bandersnatch is an immersive choose-your-own-adventure style story in which the viewer is given choices to make that will alter the direction and events that happen. Ultimately what this provides is a non-linear story with multiple endings and branching paths to be discovered. The episode takes place in 1984 and follows video game programmer, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk), who is developing "Bandersnatch", a choose-your-own-adventure computer game based on the choose-your-own-adventure book of the same name. Will Poulter (The Maze Runner, The Revenant) also stars and plays the role of Colin Ritman, a veteran game programmer who Stefan admires. For those that haven't watched Bandersnatch yet, I have to warn you that what comes next is a breakdown of the choices I made and will be full of spoilers.

Things start off pretty tame. The first choice you're given is what cereal to eat - FROSTED FLAKES or SUGAR PUFFS. I chose Frosted Flakes. It was a throwaway scene, but the novelty of seeing my choice being played out on TV was compelling. The next choice was during Stefan's bus ride to the software company where he was going to pitch his game idea. He pulls out two cassette tapes - Thompson Twins and the various artist mix, Now That's What I Call Music Vol.2. I chose Thompson Twins. And just like that, he inserts the cassette into his tape player and "Hold Me Now" fills my ears. At this point my mind is blown. "I just made him play Thompson Twins!" I thought. "This is amazing!" It was about midway through the come up but the effects were already pretty heavy. I was beginning to lose sensation in my body and I started to feel like I was sinking and melding into my mattress.
I chose Frosted Flakes. It was a throwaway scene, but the novelty of seeing my choice being played out on TV was impressive.
The first critical choice is given immediately after Stefan's successful pitch when the software company's executive Mohan (Asim Chaudhry) offers him a desk in their office, a budget, and a team of developers to help create his game. Being in an industry and position where I personally work in a team environment, I accepted his offer without consideration. This (incorrect?) choice quickly delivered an ending where Stefan's career was cut short because he essentially "sold out" to "the man". No biggie. Bandersnatch allows you to go back to moments just before the last critical choice and alter the course of history with a do-over; which I did. The episode then conveniently constructs a quick recap of events based on previous choices to bring you up to speed. All well and good, right? Wrong! This is when Bandersnatch started messing with my brain. You see, there where little variations in the story when I jumped back in. Stefan knew information that he shouldn't have known. He knew what a person was going to say before they said it. All facts and details he would've only known had he experienced the original timeline. I didn't just simply rewind the episode. Stefan proved to have a memory based on the previous reality and it was literally freaking me out. What kind of time travel witchcraft is this? I took a deep breath and when the time came I altered my original choice and rejected Mohan's offer. I was a little shook, but at least I was back on track.

Moments later, we see Stefan sitting in a small room with a female. After listening to the conversation for a bit, it's quickly revealed that Stefan experienced some childhood trauma and as a result was seeing a psychiatrist. During the session the psychiatrist, Dr. Haynes (Alice Lowe, Hot Fuzz), asks if he'd like to talk more about his childhood which triggers a choice along with a brief flashback if selected. Afterwards Stefan returns home to continue developing his game. When he attempts to run his code the game crashes. At that moment, Stefan's dad walks in to see if everything's okay. In Stefan's frustration the choice between POUR TEA ON COMPUTER and SHOUT AT FATHER are presented. I didn't want Stefan to lose all of the time and hard work he put into his code so I reluctantly directed him to yell at his dad. He did. Upset, his father forces him to take a break from his computer and go for a car ride to get lunch. Instead he drops him off in front of the psychiatrist's office and urges him to speak to her. Across the street, Colin, the hotshot game programmer from earlier, is seen strolling down the sidewalk. I was given the choice to either FOLLOW COLIN or VISIT DR. HAYNES. At this point, GSC had a solid grip on my consciousness. And considering I was still slightly reeling from that crazy time-travel rewind incident, I was beginning to feel like I needed to see a psychiatrist myself. This choice proved to be the impetus that set in motion my eventual mental unravelling.

Right away, Stefan opens up to Dr. Haynes and explains how lately he feels like he hasn't been making his own decisions - as if some outside force was pulling his strings. My eyes widened. Then during the session I was given the choice for Stefan to ease his anxiety by directing him to either PULL HIS EAR or BITE HIS NAILS. Another seemingly benign choice like selecting his cereal or music. Since I bite my nails when I'm nervous I select that option. Stefan begins to raise his thumbnail to his mouth but quickly interjects by using his other hand to forcefully push it back down on his lap. For the first time, Stefan refused to follow my command. My heart began to race. "Oh shit! He knows!" I thought. "He knows I'm out here in the future controlling him." At that moment fear washed over me. I wanted him to feel like he had free will so I made decided that I'd need to begin making choices that I thought he would make himself. I didn't want to give him any clue or indication to believe he wasn't in control. In my mind Bandersnatch was as real as reality itself. I began to panic thinking about how I was now responsible for this man's life. Because... weed.

Back home, Stefan tried to continue work on his game. And again, during an attempt to run his code, the game crashes. DESTROY COMPUTER and THROW TEA ON COMPUTER appear on the screen. At this point I was deep in GSC's clutches and I felt a complete disconnect from my body. I was immobile, weightless, and floating in darkness. My bedroom had been devoured and replaced by blackness as I watched reality play through a magical window hovering in front of my eyes. I didn't like either option but considered tea to be the lesser of two evils. But when I tried to move my thumb across the controller to make my selection it didn't move. The controller had become one with my hand and my thumb was fused on the select button. I couldn't move my fingers and only had a few seconds to make my choice. I stared intently at my hand begging for it to obey my command. It felt like my thumb weighed 10-pounds, but I muscled it over just enough to choose and validate my selection in the nick of time. I watched as Stefan picked up his mug and started carrying it toward his computer. Then just as he did in the doctor's office, he forcefully tried to prevent himself from carrying out my request. His hand trembled as he willed every ounce of willpower to put the mug down. Watching this wracked me with guilt since I myself felt forced to make a decision I didn't want to make. Fortunately Stefan was able to fight back and successfully put the mug down.

I felt a sense of relief, but watching that interaction made me reflect on the experience I had just endured. Why was it so difficult to move my thumb? The thought that I was also being controlled from some external entity filled my head. "Oh shit! I'm not in control," I thought. Hysteria slowly started infecting my mental stability. And just as that toxic notion was polluting my perception of reality, Stefan began talking to me directly. "Who are you?" What do you want?" he asked while looking up toward the ceiling. My heart started to race and I began sweating. All reality shattered and worlds collided when, in a moment of desperation, Stefan begged me to give him a sign of my existence. Two choices were presented - The Netflix logo and an icon that resembles a branching path.

Now I really begin to start panicking. "Oh, God, he's going to find out about me!" I try to calm down by telling myself to take a deep breath. But when I try to inhale nothing happens. I can't breathe. "Shit! I can't breathe. Am I going to die? No, that's not possible. Calm down, it's just the weed and nobody has ever died from a THC overdose," I try to assure myself. Somehow, in the middle of my paranoia, I choose the branching path icon. Stefan's computer monitor flashes and glitches before the icon is displayed on the screen. He completely loses it. I can relate. The only thing I can think about is this inception-like system where I'm being controlled by some greater force to make decisions against my will to successively make Stefan make decisions against his will. I feel my brain melting. It's at this moment that Stefan's father enters the room to make sure everything is okay. Stefan tries to explain that he's not in control and begs his father to leave him alone. When his father continues to press, Stefan storms out of the room. His father follows him into the kitchen still worried about his behavior and pleads with him to calm down.

Now I'm in complete freak out mode feeling just as terrified as Stefan and hoping for a way to just end this whole experience. "I don't like this anymore. I just want it to be over. I just want it to be over," I repeat in my head. Suddenly, in a moment of clarity, a smile cracks across my face. "He got me! That son-of-a-bitch got me back!" I thought. His little chuckle before telling me "yeah, you gotta do it" replayed in my mind. I was convinced that my friend's recommendation to watch Bandersnatch stoned was an elaborate revenge plot to make me pay for the time I got him stoned and "reprogrammed his brain". Touché, my friend. Tou-friggin-ché! Then, as if God was listening, my prayers were answered as the choice to either KILL DAD or BACK OFF appeared on the screen. I selfishly chose Kill Dad in an attempt to end the madness. In my mind it would trigger an immediate conclusion in which the cops would arrive and haul Stefan off to jail. Then I watched as Stefan lifted a heavy glass ashtray from the kitchen counter, warned his father that he's not in control, pulled back his arm and then SMASH! Right across his dad's left temple. Blood gushed out as he collapsed to the ground.

Of course, the cops didn't show up. Instead, Stefan looks up again and asks me what to do now. BURY BODY and CHOP UP BODY are my choices. Not wanting to see or subject Stefan to chopping up his own father, I graciously allow him to bury the body. But in the process Mohan stumbles into the murder scene while making an unexpected visit to get an update on the progress of the game. Stefan's only option is to clean his tracks and murder Mohan too. Thankfully, for my own sanity, this event triggered an ending in which Stefan is hauled to jail. Needless to say, I did not rewind. I did not pass go. I did not collect $200. I settled for that ending and went straight to sleep. And that's the story of how Bandersnatch unexpectedly became one of the most terrifying things I've watched high.

But enough about me, how about you? Have you watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch or tried Girl Scout Cookies? What are your thoughts? Did you have a similar experience? Please leave a comment and let me know. And of course, don't forget to follow Bloody High on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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