“Stranger Things” is the story set in a small town in middle-of-nowhere, Indiana, that just happens to be the perfect setting for all the supernatural and terrifying things that occur there. Set in 1983, this show does a shameless but brilliant nod to the masterpieces of film, literature, and science fiction of its day. Nods to classic films and stories from John Carpenter, Stephen King, and Steven Spielberg are layered on so thick-and yet so brilliantly-it almost suggests that those stories are better suited in the world of “Stranger Things” than from the original source.
This will be a comprehensive review. I’m going to take you deep into the Upside Down and back (without revealing any spoilers) of this eight episode series because every nook and cranny of this show deserves to be discussed.
The most important part. Simply put, it was brilliant. When a young boy goes missing in a quiet, little town, a troubled but determined sheriff helps a grieving mother on the brink of losing her mind to find him. She believes there is an alternate universe named The Upside Down, where she believes her son is trapped. The pacing and tone were set from the start and never deviated from the original plot. It was scary. It was suspenseful. It was dark. To compare it to a more modern film, think “Super 8” but creepier. There were no scenes that were written in just so they could give an actor screen time. Every scene mattered. Virtually every character had their purpose.
Let me start off by saying that every actor nailed it regardless of screen time or purpose in the story. The series is carried by these four extremely talented young actors (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Millie Bobby Brown.) Millie’s performance in particular… I wouldn’t be surprised if an Emmy nomination were in her near future. As you watch them, you can’t help but be reminded of classic films of the 1980s with children ensembles like “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me.” Winona Ryder seemed to have disappeared from the acting scene for the last few years, but who would’ve thought she was able to deliver a performance like that? David Harbour as the sheriff trying to conquer his own personal demons also gave a resounding performance. Matthew Modine leaves us squeamish after every scene he’s in as the laboratory director. Again, every major (and minor) character, the actor nailed the role.
The only time I mention cinematography is when it really blows me away, and the shots on this show blew me away. “Stranger Things” is masterfully shot conveying suspense and fear in its use of darkness, light, shadows, and giving you an overall understanding of the world you are being transported to with every frame. No doubt the creators of this show were very inspired by the likes of Spielberg, King, Carpenter, and J.J. Abrams to name a few.
Created, directed, and (a few episodes) written by Matt and Ross Duffer. To be honest, I had never heard of these two before a few days ago. IMDB has them as writers/directors for shows with similar macabre tones like “Hidden” and “Wayward Pines.” I’m going to look into what else these guys have done and if you enjoyed “Stranger Things” as much as I did, I’m sure you will, too.
As I said, “Stranger Things” is an all-around masterpiece of story, acting, and visuals. One of the best things on Netflix (or any other form of home programming.) If you’ve already seen it, go back and watch it again and try to find all the Easter Eggs (because there are plenty) that give nod to the movies of their setting. Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction or horror, you’ll probably love it anyways. I strongly recommend watching the movies “Stranger Things” pay homage to if you haven’t already. They are masterpieces in their own right as well.