Netflix just released a new original series, Stranger Things, and you won’t want to miss out on it.
The ’80s inspired sci-fi/horror show is joining the elite ranks of Netflix original series. Netflix describes it as “a love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation,” and the world is describing it as a cross between Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. If you’re skeptical about the comparison, allow Mr. King himself to convince you that the show echoes his work:
Watching STRANGER THINGS is looking watching Steve King's Greatest Hits. I mean that in a good way.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 17, 2016
The show centers around a small town in Indiana in 1983, where a young boy by the name of Will Byers seemingly vanishes. His ragtag group of friends, not-quite-all-there mother, socially ostracized brother, and the local police chief all seek to find him and get answers about the strange things that are happening in the town. Along the way they get caught up with even more disappearances, a young girl with extraordinary abilities, and a government organization that’s involved with some super shady stuff.
I didn’t know what to expect when I pressed the exhilarating/terrifying “Play S1: Ep. 1” button, but after the first few minutes treated me to a light-flickering chase scene and a passionate game of Dungeons & Dragons, I immediately got it and was hooked…just like that. With Stranger Things, there’s no one or two episode “grace period” where you give the show a chance to get to where it’s going. It’s honest and upfront about what it is and it immediately grips you and keeps you right up until the final credits roll.
The show probably won’t change your perspective on the world or teach you something that changes your approach to life as a whole, but I promise you it will be 8 hours of entertaining and thrilling fun. It also has amazing rewatch value, so you’ll want to watch it again and again until (the not-yet-confirmed) Stranger Things season 2.
Have you missed the bandwagon on great shows like House of Cards, Jessica Jones and Orange is the New Black? Don’t let it happen again! Stranger Things is already becoming a phenomenon just like its predecessors, and you need to get on board. If the threat of missing out on popular internet memes isn’t enough for you, here’s a few more reasons for you to press play and never look back.
The ’80s nostalgia is so real
The ’80s references in Stranger Things range from tickets to Poltergeist to the return of the mixtape. The list of ’80s easter eggs is so long that I doubt even Ready Player One could compete! If you grew up in the ’80s, you’ll no doubt find yourself transported back to memories of a simpler time filled with floral wallpaper and basement board games.
That being said, the references and the props don’t account for all the nostalgia Stranger Things has to offer. The whole tone of the series is reminiscent of the ’80s. The Duffer Brothers, who created the series, have somehow managed to capture a decade within 8 episodes with the set design, cinematography and overall atmosphere of the show. If that indicative “2016” wasn’t placed right under the title, I would have sworn that Stranger Things was an actual ’80s masterpiece resurrected by Netflix (especially since Winona Ryder hasn’t aged a day)
If you were born too late to experience the decade where the Ghostbusters, Full House, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thrived (wait…), never fear! The show is great even without the nostalgia factor, but if you’ve seen or heard anything from the ’80s ever (or have watched basically any movie produced in the last 5 years), you’re bound to catch a few of the delightful references. Even if you don’t, the world of Stranger Things is so immersive it will have even the most tech-savvy teens looking to trade in their smart phones for walkie-talkies!
The opening credits set the tone perfectly
A good opening sequence can take on a life of its own (think Orange is the New Black and Making a Murderer!) and the credits at the beginning of every Stranger Things episode do just that. The classic Stephen King font mixed with the ominous synth-pop will have you simultaneously anxious to jump into the action and wanting the words to fade in for a little longer.
The kids are in charge of the plot
The best movies from our childhood are the ones that were driven by the kids, where the adults were side characters at best. Stranger Things effortlessly taps into that with Mike and his friends. The kids being free to plan, succeed and fail at their own will gives the story a sense of innocence, heart, courage and camaraderie that would be lacking if the parents were more involved.
Aside from Joyce Byers and Chief Jim Hopper the main characters of Stranger Things are exclusively children. Although this is the formula for some of the most iconic films of all time (many of which come from the ’80s), it’s a difficult one to master. Often the kids either become annoying because of their ignorance and stubbornness, or are too unrealistically brilliant and talented to convey the sense of youth.
The kids in Stranger Things are kids…plain and simple. Their friends are their family (although they recognize when they really need an adult), they’re always up for an adventure, and they’re completely lacking any of the jadedness or weariness that can come with adulthood. Even Eleven, who is supernaturally gifted, possesses these qualities, which makes this group the ideal focal point of the story. Of course, this formula only works because…
The child actors are #flawless
Seriously guys…the acting…I can’t. Of course the iconic Winona Ryder is completely captivating and David Harbour as Chief Jim Hopper is a treat to watch, but the kids honestly steal the show in Stranger Things. They’re just so good! Finn Wolfhard as Mike, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven fill their roles perfectly. I don’t know where they found these kids, but they’re so ideally suited to the ’80s time period that I’m not sure what they were thinking being born in the ’00s.
Scenes that feature only the children could easily fall apart without a more experienced actor there to guide them, but these four nail it every.single.time. They perfectly capture the enthusiasm, fear, anger and despair needed to convey the story, and I can’t wait to see what they all do next. *cough*hopefully Stranger Things season 2*cough*
The soundtrack will make you want to dig out your old mixtapes (or make a new one)
Ranging from The Clash to Dolly Parton, the soundtrack will either introduce, or reintroduce you to so many amazing ’80s tracks. The world wouldn’t be complete without both the classic ’80s songs and the original score of the show. Both serve to immerse you even further into the decade.
The pacing is on point
One thing that Netflix always nails with its Original Series is the pacing, since the creators have more freedom to choose how long their story lasts. Stranger Things has a mere eight episodes, which is relatively short compared to your typical TV show, but it’s the perfect amount of time to tell the story.
Stranger Things feels more like an eight hour movie than a TV series. In another time it may have been condensed down to a more manageable two hours, but they use the extra time so wisely. The episodes aren’t padded with extra mysteries and subplots that complicate the story. Stranger Things isn’t a show that you’ll need to abandon all distractions for (but you’ll want to). The mystery remains possible and relatively easy to follow, while still keeping you guessing the whole way through.
The subplots in the show don’t come across as filler. They feel important and interesting and serve to expand the world and the characters in just the right way. One character that really benefits from this is Police Chief Jim Hopper. In a more condensed format his character could easily have been reduced to one of the many law enforcement archetypes out there. Because the show is the correct length, he got to be real and complex and turned out to be one of the best characters in the series!
It’s ‘laugh out loud’ funny
Despite the dire circumstances, this show will most definitely make you laugh out loud. From Barb’s sass, to Dustin’s one liners, to Hopper’s incompetent squad, there’ll be something in Stranger Things that will cater to whatever twisted sense of humor you may have!
And ‘scream out loud’ scary
Stranger Things is the best kind of horror. It doesn’t rely on too much gore to make you squirm or too many “jump out of your seat” moments to keep you in suspense. It successfully creates a chilling atmosphere using creepy visuals, government lab experiments, and characters that you genuinely care about. Of course, there are some moments where you’ll find yourself yelling “don’t you dare split up,” or “if you go in there right now I’m not speaking to you anymore.” They’re borderline mandatory for the genre! However, these moments don’t feel forced and are welcome additions to the overall creepy tone of the series.
The show is a horror, so it will scare you, but it’s a manageable one. The thrilling moments are interlaced with enough character building and funny moments to give the non-horror fanatics, like myself, a much needed break. That being said, if you are among the more squeamish, it might be a good idea to invite some friends over for a binge-watching session to help you get through it. If you do end up watching it alone, make sure all your light bulbs are fully charged so flickering isn’t a possibility…you’ll thank me later.
It has a great mix of supernatural and realistic aspects
With all this talk of ’80s music, board games and cute kids, don’t forget that Stranger Things is a science fiction show! Don’t worry, there’s plenty of supernatural world building to keep the sci-fi geek in you happy, but not too much that it gets too confusing or takes away from character development.
There are two main supernatural aspects in Stranger Things. One is the character of Eleven, as I mentioned earlier. She has so many cool abilities (I won’t spoil them for you) and she isn’t afraid to use them! Watching her character explore both the strength and weakness that she’s gained with her powers is definitely one of the highlights of the show.
The other less-than-realistic thing in the show is whatever’s responsible for Will Byers’ disappearance. All I’ll say about this is that the special effects are way better than they would have been in the actual ’80s, and that the mystery is chilling, interesting, and satisfying the whole way through!