The Creepy Joy of Netflix’s Stranger Things
The nostalgia of the 80’s is quite powerful for some reason. The absurdity and somehow classic nature of many of the movies from that time still inspire many of the shows and movies of today. The new Netflix thriller show called Stranger Things is a prime example of how great that nostalgia is.
Built upon the foundation of paranormal thrillers that were much more common in the 80’s, Stranger Things takes a bite out of all that was good from the genre. Take a bit of Stephen King’s It, Stand By Me, Poltergeist, and maybe even a bit of Stephen King’s The Mist and mix it in a geeky bowl and you have all that is Stranger Things. Weave in just enough effects and creature creepiness to make the title PG-13-styled and you have a show that is definitely bingeworthy.
I hesitate to say much more than that about the show for fear of spoiling the mysterious plot. Essentially you have a boy that goes missing in a small town in Indiana in 1983. The hunt for the boy delves into some serious paranormal sci-fi happenings that push and pull the entire cast every which way. It has just enough ‘creepy’ and only slight touches of ‘gore’ that would make this a fun family show for the 9 year old and up viewers or so.
For myself, the moment the band of young geeky boys tossed out their multi-sided dice during a session of Dungeons and Dragons, I instantly jumped back into my own geeky childhood days of the same happenings. While this moment isn’t the primary unifying event that makes you identify or love the young band of bros, you do instantly believe the friendship the little ones have for each other that binds them throughout the odd happenings throughout the show. The writers allowed for these young boys (cast by Noah Schnapp, Finn Wlfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin) to carry the show with their chemistry with each other and their mysterious female friend ‘Eleven’ (cast wonderfully by Millie Bobby Brown).
Throw in the adults (led by Wynona Ryder’s excellent and emotional performance) and the teens and you have a well thought out story that doesn’t have too many characters and yet just enough side plots to keep you hanging from scene to scene.
The story pools a lot of emotion from anger to desperation to fear (of course) and all emoted them well. Wynona’s character, Joyce Byers, is the mother of the child, Finn, who disappears and her journey from frantic, to crazy, to determined is great. As in other stories in this genre, I longed for someone or anyone to validate her ‘crazy’ so that she could keep things together long enough to be useful for the finale. Even the moments of comedy sprinkled throughout the plot managed to successfully pause the tense drama throughout the season. Thankfully the show didn’t linger on side stories too long as every part eventually webbed together into a satisfying ending that left just enough to leave the door open for a second season. Of course, the jury is still out on whether that could mean same cast in the same town or if the scenery would change to another unsuspecting town.
The nostalgia is strong with this one. Watch closely enough and you’ll see story elements and even scenes that mirror classics like Alien, Carrie, Empire Strikes Back, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Poltergeist, E.T., and many more.
Even moreso, could the success of this show that had little to no promotion lead to a surge in the genre or even a welcome surge in Stephen King shows (outside of network TV to allow for maximum creepiness)? We hope both are true as Netflix’s Stranger Things certainly delivers quality creepiness!