I love this time of year. The leaves are turning from green to gold, the nights are getting longer, and there’s absolutely fuck all out in cinemas of interest because all the good releases are being saved for Christmas. I may have used that excuse before, but you hardly need me to tell you why a Dan Brown adaptation is going to be entertaining but stupid, or why Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg should stop glorifying American mistakes. No, seeing as it’s my birthday coming up, and I happen to share that date with Winona Ryder, let’s have a look at Stranger Things.
Stranger Things is one of the many shows proudly branded a ‘Netflix Original’, and is immediately noteworthy due to the fact that it actually IS an original idea, and not just a remake or spinoff that dreams of the stars. Set in 1980’s America, the plot revolves around a mysterious government laboratory in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, and when people start disappearing and a girl with telekinetic powers is somehow involved, it’s up to the ensemble cast to find the truth; the cast in this case ranging from geeky kids to teenage rebels to concerned parents. As a sci-fi/horror combo, the show really makes the most of its setting, with the Cold War-era paranoia keeping the intrigue and mystery heightened at all times. It also acts as a superb homage to a lot of 80’s pop culture. The main supernatural element is suitably slimy and terrifying in a manner not dissimilar to Aliens, the high-school drama is straight out of Back To The Future or The Breakfast Club, and even the main titles have a distinctly ‘Stephen King’ feel to them, to the point where I am amazed he was not involved with the development of the series.
The child acting in this series is nothing short of excellent, with the three amigos Mike, Lucas and Dustin showing very convincing chemistry, and you no-doubt have all heard wondrous things about Eleven, the telekinetic mystery girl whose portrayal has had rave reviews across the board, even managing to bring Eggos back to global prominence. Veteran actors such as David Barbour and the aforementioned Winona Ryder really steal the show at times, however, with providing a very powerful performance, reducing me to tears in a few places. The acting is superb, and with it comes a very unpretentious script which is not burdened with exposition. The unknown elements are never solved by a big dump of dialogue, rather skilfully woven into the narrative resulting in excellent pacing.
This show will, as has been proven many times on Youtube, bring out physical reactions in its viewers. You will hide under the covers when you hear the opening titles, give exposed walls a second glance, and be absolutely spellbound by the performances on show. I haven’t cheered at an on-screen punch-up since Battle of the Bastards in GOT, but Stranger Things sets a new precedent. You have to watch it for the novelty alone because there is, simply put, nothing else like it at the moment. It’s charming, scary, compelling and above all, original. Suck on that, House Of Cards.