Words by @lolajosephine
The latest Netflix original series ‘Stranger Things’ hit our screens less than a week ago and already it’s been a massive hit with critics, fans, and has even received praise from esteemed horror kingfishes Steven King and Guillermo del Toro!
The Duffer Brothers (Matt & Ross) are the duo behind the creation of this series, they also directed and wrote the series alongside Shawn Levy, and a team of writers (including Alison Tatlock who worked on the soft BDSM 2002 hit film Secretary.) With over 18,000 voters on the imdb star rating system averaging the series at 9.2/10 (more than 10,000 of these being 10 star ratings,) and 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, the show is fast becoming an instant cult classic. Steven King tweeted that: “Watching Stranger Things is [like] watching Steve King’s Greatest Hits.” And del Toro chimed in saying: “Stranger Things is many things: King, Spielberg, 80’s, myself […] But what it is, above all, is good!” This show is essentially everything we all wish Super 8 (2011) had been, and a bit more besides.
When Will (Noah Schnapp) mysteriously disappears, on his ride home from an evening of Dungeons and Dragons with his best friends, it opens up some of the sinister secrets that lay beneath the lacquered finish of his provincial hometown, Hawkins, Indiana. Will’s mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) forces the initially sceptical police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) to delve further and further into her son’s disappearance, revealing the murky depths of an insidious research experiment, which has unleashed something deadly and uncontrollable on the town. Will’s friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughin) and Dylan (Gaten Matarazzo) embark on their own quest to rescue him; on the way meeting a strange and powerful ally in their young friend Eleven (Milly Bobby Brown). Meanwhile Mike’s big sister Nancy’s (Natalie Dyer) teen romances put her onto the same trail, as they all become subsumed into an unknown world of shadows, madness, ghosts, terrifying faceless beings, and haz-chem suits.
What this show manages to do – where other films and series have failed (like the recent Scream series, which despite its watchability, is pale and flaccid in comparison with Wes Craven’s classic) – is evoke a deep-seated and genuine nostalgia for fans of this era. With a plot that straddles a risky line between comforting schmaltz and malefic fear mongering, this series has the real feels of 1980s cinema. The Duffer Brothers homage films that would be on the favourites list of any and all 80s film-buffs: E.T, Alien (which is technically 70s,) Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Nightmare on Elm Street, Stand By Me, The Goonies, The Breakfast Club and the list could go on… But, crucially, the Duffers (and their team) have managed this in conscious, respectful and convincing ways. The show cleverly brings together the absolute chilling terror of a Freddy Cruger/Alien-like villain, but also delivers on intrigue and builds curiosity, like Close Encounters. The scare levels are just right; they remain tantalizing, but not so over-powering that we are ever reluctant to find out more.
The young cast members give absolutely stellar performances; they get us on side right from the first game of D&D, and bring to the series that schmaltzy Stand By Me/E.T/The Goonies vibe that is pivotal to the tone of the entire show. As well as the emotionally wrought and erratic delivery of Winona Ryder, which is both chilling, and emotive. The clever development of the cross-dimension movements is suspenseful, but most importantly it does not at any point become disappointing. Where many supernaturally premised series fall apart towards the end, as they lose any connection or bond with the original plot – which has been a fault of the genre since Lost (2004) – this never wanes or falters. We can only hope that the next series manages to carry such a strong legacy. Even though I’m a tight-assed, hard to please bitch, I’m going to have to give this the 5/5 stars, as I can’t find any real faults with it beyond my own personal niggles.
Word by @lolajosephine