When one of your favourite and most profilic authors tweets out that there’s a show that play out like a greatest hits of their work you have to sit up and take notice. This is the case with Netflix’s original programme Stranger Things and Stephen King. And boy was he right.
The Duffer Brothers have created one of the best love letters to 80’s cinema, horror, Steven Spieleberg, and Stephen King that could be realised.
Set in a small town Indiana in 1983, we follow the story of Will Byers, a 12 year old who goes missing after a 10hr session of DnD with his best friends. The following 8hrs of sci fi horror shows the struggles of Joyce, a mother searching desperately for her son (played brilliantly by Winona Ryder) and Will’s friends who stumble upon the mysterious Eleven at the same location as Will’s bike is found.
I really don’t want to spoil the story as there is plenty of twists and turns as we being to find out Eleven’s story and the reasons for Will’s disappearance. Just watch it, I promise it’s good and hopefully this post will tell you why.
- The soundtrack – Filled with 80’s classics and the series use of Should I or Should I Go, the use of licensed songs fits the ethos and feel of the series to a tee. Along with a pulsing brooding soundscape by electro outfit S U R V I V E, the music to Stranger Things has a better fitting soundtrack than anything I can remember since perhaps Drive. Oh and it’s getting a physical release too soon.
- The kids – Remember how you felt watching The Goonies or Stand By Me, well Stranger Things nails this feeling too, showing the comaraderie and friendship among a group of social misfitted teens as they play Dungeons and Dragons, get bullied and build forts, the chemistry between the three main boys is as good as our own friendships from being 13. And anyone is dislikes Dustin can just leave now. Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown) is as mysterious and brooding as any older actor could muster, I would rate her portrayal of a troubled teen up there with Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Natalie Portman in Leon.
- The attention to detail – The Duffer Brothers and team have painstakingly made this series feel as if it was made in the 80’s. The costumes oozes 80’s high school movies, Dungeons and Dragons gets played, as above the music is spot on, the older characters have Evil Dead posters on their wall, the main town cried out Back To The Future. Even on a base film level the attention to detail was a throwback, as little CGI as possible was used, musical keys are reminiscent of old 80’s horror movies and the whole aesthetic is lifted from the time.
- The references – This is a pop culture nerd’s wet dream, there are nods to ET, Third Encounters, The Goonies, Stand By Me, Alien, Nightmare on Elm Street, Carrie, Star Wars, Jaws, Evil Dead, Poltergiest, The Thing, Dungeons and Dragons and many many more. There is also the heavy overshadows of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, David Cronenburg and James Cameron. Despite all these references and obvious styling Stranger Things is greater than the sum of it’s parts in my opinion.
- The plot – While I don’t want to spoil the story there is many overlapping Stephen King-esque plots which slowly and gradually open to reveal the story. From the teenagers search for their friend to meeting the mysterious Eleven to a mother’s distressing descent into madness in the hope of her son being found alive to the high school group of the series to a cop’s hope search for redemption to a shady government entity there are several plot points that expand out to reveal a universe ripe for future series.
While it may not be the best tv show ever created, in my opinion that belongs to Breaking Bad, Stranger Things is a nostalgic horror trip with the added charm of a childrens adventure movie which I personally loved as I grew up in the era of The Goonies, Stand By Me and ET. It also is a pretty concise series clocking in at only 8 episodes so there isn’t much bloatiness which many longer series seem to have and if you’re only curious about it, hey it’s only 8 episodes along there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix