STRANGER THINGS (2016)
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Stranger Things is an eight episode series from Netflix that takes place in Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. This fun retro series tells of four friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), who are into Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars like most nerdy kids of this era. A bizarre series of events occur with Will disappearing and a mysterious young girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with strange powers showing up in town, at the same time. She calls herself ‘Eleven’ and seems to be on the run. The three friends bond with Eleven and the four set out to find Will, as does local police chief Hopper (David Harbour) with all clues pointing to the mysterious Hawkins Laboratory and it’s presiding head scientist (Matthew Modine). Where is Will? Who really is Eleven? And what do the experiments at Hawkins have to do with all this?
This is a fun and nostalgic series from Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) that not only pays homage and gives affectionate nods to the sci-fi/horror flicks of the 80s and their filmmakers, but succeeds in being it’s own thing as well. Sure we see references to many 80s classics, but Stranger Things has it’s own vibe and it’s own story to go along with it’s tributes and provides it’s own chills, as no more evident than it’s opening scenes. We get little girls with deadly powers, evil men in black, alternate dimensions, creatures, conspiracy and a small town caught in the middle of it all. The Duffers deliver it with the look and feel of a movie of that era, as well as, a really cool electronic 80s score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, but not without a touch of their own style. While the mysteries slowly unravel over the course of the eight chapters, we are kept in the dark as long as possible, fed only small bits till it all comes together in the thrilling last few episodes. It’s a delightfully retro series that delivers the goods on all levels including having a little bit of an unobtrusive and offbeat sense of humor. It’s engaging and entertaining and very cleverly written by it’s creators who know exactly in what degree to deliver both it’s homages and it’s scares. The FX are well done, with much of the creature work appearing to be live effects and it never goes too overboard with them as to not betray the era it is recreating. To say anymore would be to spoil a really enjoyable and spooky show.
The cast are all really good from the name actors to the new faces. Winona Ryder is solid as Will’s emotionally troubled mother, who is pushed close to the edge by her son’s disappearance and the strange events that follow. Matthew Modine is appropriately arrogant and sleazy as head Hawkins scientist, Dr. Brenner, who pretends to care for Eleven, but is only using her for his experiments. Young Miss Brown is very endearing as Eleven, a child with some amazing and dangerous gifts who just wants to have a normal life and be cared for. We do feel sorry for her use as a test subject and how hurt she is that people fear her once they know what she is capable of. As our main group, Wolfhard, Matarazzo and McLaughlin all are engaging and make a likable trio of friends. They are brave in their search for Will and noble, especially Mike, in their befriending of Eleven. Harbour is also a good hero as the police chief who will go up against some very dangerous people to find a little boy. Schnapp doesn’t get much screen time as the missing Will, but he is likable enough in his brief appearances that we are sympathetic to what has happened to him. A good cast.
This was a solid and very entertaining series from start to finish. The 80s nostalgia was very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of films of that era, especially those of Carpenter and Spielberg. It payed homage to and referenced many 80s classics, yet was very much it’s own story that let it’s paying tribute be part of it’s tale, but not dictate it. The cast are all good, the FX were well-rendered, but did not look out of place in an 80s style film and there were plenty of chills, suspense and thrills throughout. Highly recommended and hopefully, there is only a second season, if it can match the quality of the first. Otherwise it stands perfectly on it’s own.
- The Vanishing of Will Byers – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
- The Weirdo on Maple Street – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
- Holly Jolly – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
- The Body – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
- The Flea and the Acrobat – directed by The Duffer Brothers written by Alison Tatlock
- The Monster – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
- The Bathtub – directed by The Duffer Brothers and written by Justin Doble
- The Upside Down – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers from a story by Paul Dichter