It’s been a while since I’ve written an article for TheMovies, but I always knew that it would take something quite special to get me out of retirement. No, that reason is not “because Kervyn asked me”. Well, I’ll give you that one, but it’s only half true. The reason that I find myself inspired enough to write this article is a show that blindsided not only me, but an army of Netflix subscribers: Stranger Things.
Born of Netflix’s magical and mysterious formulas, Stranger Things is an instant classic… and I truly can’t put my finger on exactly why. Don’t get me wrong, I could probably write a thesis on how much I enjoyed the first season and all the elements I loved, but that just adds to the conundrum. Over the last few days, online discussion about Stranger Things has been rife and the reasons people seem to love and swarm to it are surprisingly varied. With that being the case, perhaps we should just dispense with the obvious.
Netflix’s Stranger Things is a nostalgic blend of horror & sci-fi, set in a sleepy mid-80s town in Indiana, surrounded by forests. Sounds perfect, right? It gets even better. The story starts with the disappearance of Will Byers, after he has a mysterious encounter in the woods on his way home from a D&D session with his socially-awkward friends, who all seemingly graduated from the Spielberg School for Adventurous Quirky Pre-Teens. The disappearance of Will also coincides with the appearance of a mysterious, silent girl… and a dark, evil presence in the woods.
As the reality of the disappearance of Will settles on the town, his ragtag gang of misfits start to search the town for clues. At the same time, Will’s frantic mother (Winona Ryder) and the town’s sceptical police chief start their own investigation into his disappearance. Both investigations bring our intrepid heroes into contact with government conspiracies and forces not quite of this world, as they try and piece together the mystery of what happened to Will. Are they going crazy, or is there something evil at play?
Stranger Things also taps into a pure, nostalgic joy that the X-Files reboot was unable to capture. Not only is it a fun glimpse into the 80s, but it is rife with throwbacks to genre classics like The Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, E.T, Star Wars, Rambo, Stand By Me… if you are able to spot them all, you are definitely better than I am. The fantastic synth intro – even the retro font being used for the title cards – seems more at home on a cheesy (but good cheesy) Dean Koontz adaptation, and the small town might as well be ripped right from a Stephen King novella. And the huge dash of circa 1980’s Spielbergian magic is hard to miss.
Beautifully written and directed by the Duffer Brothers – who are surely poised for bigger things after all the hype this is getting – Stranger Things takes all these elements and classic horror & sci-fi tropes and revels in them, keeping the fantastic ones intact and turning a few on their heads in extremely surprising ways. Taking into consideration all of this is backed up by a fantastic cast that bring a few surprisingly complex characters to life, it is easy to see why this is 2016’s first instant classic.
As a whole, Stranger Things is extremely binge-worthy and satisfying from beginning to the very end, and you will undoubtedly find yourself staring at the credits after the last episode is over, wishing that there was more available. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone else that has finished the show. Meanwhile, I will hold out hope that we’ll see an (equally fantastic) second season soon. I’d better start practicing my Millennium Falcon levitation!
All eight 1-hour long episodes of Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix.
Last Updated: July 20, 2016