Review: STRANGER THINGS

 

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What follows is what I believe to be a relatively spoiler-free review of Stranger Things. If, however, you haven’t seen (binged) the show yet, and want to know as few details as possible, here is my quick-and-dirty, positively spoiler-free review:

WATCH THE SHOW. YOU’LL DIG IT.

There.

I trust you folks are already headed for your remotes and La-Z-Boy recliners, ready to watch (binge) the show.

For those of you who haven’t seen the series, but don’t mind learning a few (as spoiler-free as possible) details, read on. For those of you who have seen the show – welcome! – and please feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section below.

In the new Netflix series Stranger Things, the eighties are back – and not only due to the show being set in 1983.

Stranger Things is a throwback to all the things that made TV and movie pop culture back then great. In the eight episodes that comprise Season 1, you’ll find all manner of nods, tributes and tip-your-cap howdy-do’s to Stephen King, John Carpenter, James Cameron, The X-Files (OK – 90’s show, I get it) author and screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, (who gets a character named after him) Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott – the list goes on. Even the excellent theme music is reminiscent of John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream.

What’s great about all that stuff is that, behind all this love-letter praising of artists and movies of that era, is a very solid and well-executed storyline. The scripts are clever and fun, the acting is first-rate, and the directing is terrific, rife with the above-mentioned stylistic cues from so many legendary directors that flourished in ththings2e eighties.

The overarching plot is about a young boy who goes missing one evening after a Dungeons-and-Dragons campaign with his three equally-nerdy pals. In the pre-credit sequence, we see a scientist being pursued by some kind of strange, unseen creature, and we can only assume the poor D&D player has also fallen victim to the monster.

The rest of the episodes revolve around the boy’s distraught mother, the town’s alcoholic sheriff, and the other three D&D-playing buddies as they all set out on independent missions to find the kid. As the series evolves, an assortment of government baddies led by Matthew Modine (ask your parents about his 80’s resume) is also eager to find the lad, albeit for their own nefarious purposes.

Enter “Eleven,” a little girl with a shaved head and destructive telepathic and telekinetic powers that are reminiscent of Stephen King’s Charlie from his novel Firestarter. She – and her powers – are discovered by the misfit boys during their search, and, well…. stranger things ensue.

The show features monsters and mayhem, and while the series is reminiscent of past works by the above-named authors and directors, none of it is a rip-off of their work. The show feels fresh and authentic despite its pre-internet setting and derivations, and it’s a helluva lot of fun to watch!

At only eight episodes, the series never comes close to wearing out its welcome, as there are no filler moments, let alone filler episodes as it breezes along toward its monster-filled, dimension-bending conclusion.

And it’s a satisfying conclusion, effectively wrapping its first season and leaving you wanting to see more. Netflix has already granted fans that wish, and I can’t wait to see what series creators (and directors) the Duffer Brothers come up with next. They are a couple of interesting guys! The series, while paying tribute to their creative heroes, also looks like the greatest fan-film ever made, in that there is a raw quality to the style of the episodes due to what I can only assume was a low production budget. And yet they pull it off brilliantly. The visual effects work very well, and it’s clear these guys know what they’re doing behind the camera, making the most out of their resources in much the way John Carpenter did with his early films.

So catch the binge-train to Netflix and watch the show. Bring a friend, even if they’re not that into horror and sci-fi. If they were children of the 80’s, they’ll dig the nostalgia! And I’m willing to bet they’ll enjoy the complex, yet not too complicated storyline.

Hey, Stranger Things have happened…

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