This isn’t exactly a formal review, but I felt like I just wanted to get the word out there about this fantastic new series currently available on Netflix. I’m only halfway through it, but I felt like I’ve seen enough to know that a great deal of you would want to hear about this show if you haven’t already.
In “Stranger Things” a quiet little town in Indiana is rocked when one if its local boys goes missing. However, the quest to find the child unveils even greater terrors as the residents find themselves dealing with secret government labs, supernatural creatures, and a girl with strange powers.
If you had told me that “Stranger Things” was the result of Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Steven Spielberg getting together at a bar in the mid-80s and hashing out a television series I probably would have believed you. There are so many distinct elements in this film that feel uniquely tied to those talents. Instead, this series is the creation of Matt and Ross Duffer who previously directed the horror thriller “Abandoned.”
It’s clear that “Stranger Things” was crafted as a love letter to ’80s sci-fi/horror cinema. The series is set in 1983 and draws a lot of influence from films around that time period. For one thing, the soundtrack utilizes some great John Carpenter-esque synthesizer beats to underscore the action of the film and raise up tension. There’s also an element to the way the show is shot that makes you think about Carpenter’s “Halloween.” The series feels perpetually drab and cold and leaves you feeling like something is watching you from the shadows.
Then there are the multiple story arcs all playing out at once that feel like they could have been plucked from either a Steven Spielberg movie or a Stephen King novel. Winona Ryder plays Joyce Byers, the mother of the missing child, and her character descends down a maddening spiral of obsession similar to Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Then there’s Chief Hopper, played by David Harbour, who feels like an homage to Chief Brody in “Jaws.”
And then there’s the three boys who are desperately searching for their missing friend with the aid of a mysterious super powered girl named Eleven. It’s the kind of coming of age story that would’ve fit perfectly in a Spielberg film or King novel. The three boys (played spectacularly by Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Finn Wolfhard) are your typical nerdy kids from the ’80s, but they’re each so distinct and well crafted that they’re easily my favorite part of the series. They introduce a lot of comedy into the show, but it’s played with a lot of heart and realism. They feel like real and tangible kids that would’ve grown up in the ’80s and not just imagined interpretations of that generation.
And let’s not forget to mention Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, who starts off as a blank slate and slowly evolves into a richly fleshed character. Her arc is filled with heartache and anger and Millie does an incredible job of portraying that range of emotion while also slowly revealing herself to both the audience and characters.
If all of those elements weren’t enough there’s also a secret government lab, a crazy supernatural monster, and weird alternate realities thrown into the mix as well. There’s just so damn much going on in this series that you could pick any one element and make it into its own film. And each episode knows how to dangle just enough information and questions in front of you to make you eager to watch the next one.
“Stranger Things” is a must watch for horror fans and people who are nostalgic for ’80s cinema. Hell, it’s a must watch if you’re a fan of things that are just plain good. You don’t need to fit into a particular subcategory of fandom to get into this series (though you might appreciate it more if you do), because it’s a marvelous product regardless. Now, it’s entirely possible this whole thing could just collapse in on itself before it’s over, but so far this might be my new favorite series of the year.
What do you think? Have you been watching “Stranger Things”? Let us know what you think about it down below!