Stranger Things is Netflix at the Peak of its Powers

Stranger Things is Netflix at the Peak of its Powers

I’m here to add to the chorus of people praising Stranger Things, a new eight-episode series on Netflix. I have seen it called a cross between X-Files and The Goonies; that is exactly what it is, plus phenomenal music. It, at turns, employs elements of horror, comedy, coming-of-age, surrealism, and satire. It is wonderful. Go watch it. Right now.

It is also peak Netflix, imo. They gave two relatively unknown brothers – Matt and Ross Duffer – the funds and freedom to make something awesome: essentially a Spielberg/King throwback that is made really, really well. The Duffer brothers didn’t have to squeeze out 12-15 episodes, they didn’t have to worry about being canceled due to poor initial ratings, and, from all indications, they didn’t have to worry about too many other people’s opinions of what they were doing.

(Ed’s note: minor spoilers follow.)

So the story takes place in the fictional Hawkins, Indiana (shoutout Indiana being the site of weird shit), a cozy suburb a ways outside Indianapolis. It stars Winona Ryder and David Harbour – who both possibly give the performance of their respective careers – in the kind-of lead roles, rounded out by a group of the best child actors I’ve ever seen assembled in one project. God, they are great in this thing. Also, it’s set in the 80s (!).

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Will Byers goes missing in the first episode (calm down, the damn title of the ‘sode is The Vanishing of Will Byers). We don’t get to see exactly what happens but it’s the first in a never ending cavalcade of awesome-creepy scenes. That occurrence is the basis around which the whole series is built. Oh, and did I mention there is a highly sketchy Department of Energy lab on the outskirts of town? Well, there is a highly sketchy Department of Energy lab on the outskirts of town. IT MAY OR MAY NOT BE A PRIMARY POINT OF FOCUS FOR THIS TELEVISION PROGRAM.

All aspects of the show are handled deftly: suspense is drawn out, the creep factor is constantly being cranked up, the humor and emotions are played to the perfect pitch, character development is otherworldly. It somehow meshes an almost-fully-formed coming-of-age story with sci-fi, then mixes those with redemption/dread undertones. And the special effects and world-building are top notch.

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Then there’s the music, which I alluded to up at the top. It’s not just the songs many of you over 30 (does that include anyone reading this? hello?) will instantly start nodding along to, but also, and more so to me, the original music woven in and out of every scene. It’s made by a band called SURVIVE (or S U R V I V E as they prefer), and they nail the 80s theme completely. The score is big and atmospheric but it can also turn sparse and spine-tingling in a split second.

You will not want this show to end. I watched it over two nights and I’m having withdraw symptoms. Luckily, a second season looks very likely; Netflix would be dumb to do anything but give the Duffer bros a pile of cash and get the heck out of the way.

Enjoy.

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