Where do I even start with Stranger Things? How can I adequately encapsulate everything that makes this show utterly and completely amazing? This is something that I’ve been wondering over the last 24 hours or so, ever since I finished watching the debut season of the new series from Netflix.
Stranger Things snuck up on me. I hadn’t been aware that it was something coming until just about a month before its release and then I promptly forgot about it. Not because it didn’t look like something up my alley because it sooooooo looked up my alley; I’m just forgetful sometimes. Then all of a sudden, I saw a friend mention the release of the show on Friday and everything about it came back to me in an instant and all I wanted to do was go home to watch it. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to start watching the show until late on Saturday but when I did, I was immediately hooked. I thought I would watch one or two episodes before I crashed for the night but instead I contemplated several times if it would be feasible to stay up until 5-6am to finish the entire series (I wound up watching 5 episodes until 2am and getting up early-ish on Sunday to finish the rest).
Imagine Super 8, Poltergeist, E.T., and the Stephen King-verse had a perfect love child. That is what Stranger Things feels like in the best possible ways. You have an amazing cast comprised of several kids who do wonders with their roles; Millie Bobbie Brown as the mysterious Eleven, Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, and Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin. Then you have Natalie Dyer as Nancy, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers in the teenager category. And finally we have Winona Ryder in what is arguably her biggest role in quite some time, playing Joyce Byers.
Joyce is the mother of Will Byers, a boy who suddenly goes missing after a rigorous Dungeons & Dragons campaign with his friends. Following his disappearance, a mysterious girl shows up with strange powers and a slew of “bad men” on her trail. Not keen to just sit on the sidelines and hope that the police find their missing friend, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin – with the help of the mysterious girl – start their own investigation which leads to stranger and stranger things (omg the title!).
While the story is primarily focused on the kids, a good chunk of the psychological aspect to the show comes from the focus on Joyce as she seemingly starts to unravel due to the grief of losing a child. Her oldest son, Jonathan, tries to help her cope but is grieving as well, tearing their small family apart. While it’s definitely a rollercoaster of emotions right off the bat, there’s never a feeling of complete despair. This horror series makes sure to really channel the childlike wonder of the kids and use it to give the viewers hope that things will work out in the end.
The synth pop score that accompanies Stranger Things and its opening theme work extremely well with the series as a whole to set the tone and convey the vibe that something weird is, in fact, going on. It feels almost like the score from the Tron movies, a bit. The score is mixed in with an excellent compilation of tunes from the 80s to do a great job of contributing to the overall setting and reminding you that the show takes place in a different time than ours.
WATCH IT! I don’t think I did a great job of conveying just how much I enjoyed this show in the earlier parts of this review, which I didn’t honestly intend to be a review. That being said, the show is wonderful and hits all the marks that it should. It’s scary when it means to be scary. It’s endearing when it’s meant to be endearing. And overall, it’s a delight to watch.
There are only 8 episodes to the first season and while it’s already been announced that a second season will follow, it does a great job of both leaving it as a potential mini-series and setting things up for what’s to come. I realize that may not make a lot of sense, but for me the show could stand alone with just enough mystery to leave you guessing or they could use those cues to lead off into StrangerER Things.