Stranger Things is a new 8-episode Netflix original series. There’s absolutely nothing I haven’t seen here before, so why am I so obsessed?
By Jay Hunter – This thrilling Netflix-original drama stars award-winning actress Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, who lives in a small Indiana town in 1983 — inspired by a time when tales of science fiction captivated audiences. When Joyce’s 12-year-old son, Will, goes missing, she launches a terrifying investigation into his disappearance with local authorities. As they search for answers, they unravel a series of extraordinary mysteries involving secret government experiments, unnerving supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl.
By the time Stranger Things opening credits hit after 5 minutes of the first episode, I was hooked. Although being a child firmly from the 1990’s, I was a raised on the earlier works of Spielberg. As I got older, I turned onto the likes of John Hughes, Stephen King & John Carpenter. Which is why I feel so at home watching Stranger Things. It’s clear show creators, the Duffer Brothers had a similar upbringing.
The shows humble town isn’t dissimilar from Halloween’s, Haddonfield and it’s inhabited by characters we’ve all met before, from the Losers Club in IT, to Elliot in E.T. But much like 2015’s It Follows, Stranger Things feels more like a love letter to these movies than plagiarism. The Duffer Brothers know exactly what they’re doing, and with cheeky winks to the audience through posters of Spielberg’s Jaws and Carpenter’s The Thing on the walls of our main antagonists, Ilove them all the more for it.
In a recent interview with Vulture, the brothers had this to say;
Obviously Stranger Things is heavily influenced by so many of the films and Stephen King novels that were coming out in the early ’80s, when you guys were either not alive or barely cognizant. How did those become your touchstones?
MD: “When we were first starting to talk about the idea [for the show], we had talked about a paranormal-missing child story line. Then we were talking about some of the mysterious government experiments that we felt were happening at the tail end of the Cold War, right when rumored [projects] like MKUltra were ramping down.
That was the initial idea, and we thought that made sense either at the tail end of the ’70s or early ’80s. Then we hit upon the idea: Oh, this is great because this allows us to also pay homage to the films we grew up on. So many of our greatest moviegoing experiences were actually experienced in our house, on VHS. These were the films that were on our shelves, that we would watch. When you’re a kid, you don’t watch a movie one time. You watch it 10, 20 times. These were the movies we grew up on. It became a part of us.”
Ross Duffer: “Why we loved this stuff so much is because these movies and books were about very ordinary people we could relate to, that we understood. We’re like, oh, that’s like my mom and that’s like my friend and that person is like me, even though they would encounter these amazing things. That was always our favorite type of story, and that’s the stuff we fell in love with. The peak of those type of ordinary-meets-extraordinary stories was in the ’80s.”
Whilst the finale may feel narratively lacklustre to some, the pacing, direction and cast throughout the series makes it feel unfair to pick at the shows small missteps. Stranger Things is the perfect Summer show and whilst some scenes may be a step too far for more emotional children, it’s fun for all the family.