Netflix original brings nostalgia and scares

Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and Gaten Matarazzo in Stranger Things (2016)
Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and Gaten Matarazzo in Stranger Things (2016)

‘Stranger Things’ TV series review

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer

3/5 stars

Ever expanding its content, Netflix’s newest original series is Stranger Things, a supernatural drama set in 1983. The series follows the disappearance of 12-year-old Will Beyers from a small town in Indiana. Add in the boys’ relatives and their own personal demons, a mysterious government conspiracy, and a little girl with some very mysterious abilities, and you have a recipe for chaos.

The show takes inspirations from many ’80s pop culture icons, and contains references to films like Stand by Me, E.T., and The Goonies. There’s also the “small town with very odd happenings” plot that’s grown ever popular in recent years, with shows like the early ’90s Twin Peaks or Hemlock Grove, another Netflix original. Big fans of the era and/or those who remember it will greatly appreciate the attention to detail. If it wasn’t for the sharpness and clarity of the footage, you’d swear it really was filmed in 1983. Even the fonts used are the same ones used in Stephen King’s ’80s work.

Stranger Things contains several character plot arcs, and some of them work better than others. Much of the plot follows a group of kids, all friends of the boy who went missing. Although the child actors were spot-on in their roles (they even swear an appropriate amount), I found their segments tedious and almost unwatchable. Other arcs include those of teenagers with their own drama who get caught up in paranormal happenings, the show-stealing Winona Ryder as Will’s frazzled single mother, and the mysterious young girls.

Some of the arcs seem to be there purely for drama and don’t go anywhere interesting; nevertheless, they are acted well and all drive the story one way or the other.

Special, exceptional praise must be given to the show’s soundtrack. It’s a mixture of ’80s hits (“Should I Stay or Should I Go” features heavily) and original ’80s-style electronic music that compliments the show’s tone/story very well. The music is one of the best parts of the series, and it’s very noteworthy for a non-network program with a fairly low budget.

The actual supernatural content—the less you know about it going in, the better—makes up only about a third of the actual events. The rest is driven by the as-mentioned character drama and establishing plot. It unfolds nicely, especially towards the end, leading one to wonder what’s in store for season two.

At only eight episodes, Stranger Things is a quick watch and easy to get into. Anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries will have fun with it. A solid soundtrack, performance, and frights help prop up this show, even when it fails in other areas.