Sunday, October 9, 2016

REVIEW: "Stranger Things" (2016)

Despite my admiration for certain T.V. shows from ABC to Nickelodeon to animated series growing up, I've always been more of a movie person (as those who know me really well can certainly tell you). But there are times when a series will really grab me or intrigue me, whether it's the quirky adventures of Doug Funnie on Nickelodeon or the comedic-dramatic day-to-day agendas of the Braverman family on Parenthood. Netflix's recent summer hit Stranger Things (the throwback brainchild of the Duffer Brothers) is the latest case in point.

The basic premise involves a boy named Will who mysteriously disappears one night while riding his bike home. As his worried mother and teenage brother, along with Will's three best friends (Mike, Lucas, and Dustin), set out to find him, the latter three find a mysterious girl where their friend disappeared. With a shaved head and lab gown, they soon discover that this girl (whom they name "Eleven," or "L") can do things with her mind, and even has the ability to make contact with those in another dimension, while on the run from mysterious testing-facility agents and a terrifying monster.

Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder)
Stranger Things is an amalgamation of sorts to 1980s popular culture and sci-fi/horror, from Steven Spielberg (E.T., Poltergeist, The Goonies) and John Carpenter (The Thing, Starman) classics to "Dungeons and Dragons" to Stephen King novels, this highly engrossing series recalls the nostalgia of growing up in the aformentioned decade while emphasizing (and sometimes critiquing) the thematic undertones and events of the era. There's an interesting moment in the second episode (er, "chapter"), for instance, where one high school character describes another as "such a cliche". This moment represents the types of conventions seen in t.v. and film of the decade to the way said conventions are seen today, and then expanded upon.

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)
While intriguing, extremely well-acted (most film buffs will recognize 80s stars Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine) and well-written (each episode, without spoiling, does end by promising the best is yet to come), this isn't a series for everybody. In fact, many scenes are very tense-ridden, including moments of pre-teenage kids in danger. (There's even an unnecessary moment that juxtaposes a teenage girl who loses her virginity, and another character who gets killed off in another dimension--possibly suggesting the end of innocence.) And as J.J. Abrams did with the equally-nostalgic Super 8 (of which this series may have also been partly inspired by), language, especially spoken by pre-teenage characters, is an issue. Nevertheless, the show's combination of coming-of-age childhood, science-fiction, and supernatural horror and phenomena is equally intriguing and scary. And that's something only a real film buff can say about a T.V. series inspired by the movies.


  1. Thanks for getting me hooked on the series! Looking forward to the next chapters­čĹ╗