Stranger Things 101. Image by Netflix.

Stranger Things 101 Review:

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Stranger Things is a new series created by relatively unknown filmmakers Matt and Ross Duffer (henceforth known as the Duffer Brothers) and produced by Netflix. Although Netflix doesn’t share its ratings (views, downloads, streams, whatevers), independent industry observers have reported Stranger Things is Netflix’ most talked about series since their cultural phenomenon “Making a Murderer” last summer. More startling, at least to this consumer of sci-fi entertainment, is the report stating Stranger Things is even out performing Netflix’ Marvel shows (Daredevil and Jessica Jones), making the unheralded newcomer a probable third in overall popularity among Netflix original programming behind Fuller House and Orange is the New Black. It’s only startling until you actually sit and watch it. It’s THAT good.

What Makes it Good

Stranger things takes place in the fall of 1983 in Hawkins, Indiana. Having been born in 1977, Stranger Things reminds me of everything I liked and watched over and over again in the ’80s. Stranger Things differs from shows like ABC’s The Goldbergs because it doesn’t take advantage of the era’s many easy targets for laughs. Instead, I got a palatable sense of the Duffer Brothers’ fondness for everything ’80s: the movies, the music, the fashion, the story-telling tropes… Rather than going after cheap laughs, the Duffers illustrate a reverence for the era through careful recreations of famous shots from beloved ’80s movies.

I am constantly reminded of a Spielberg-ian influence with visual cues evoking E.T., The Goonies, and Poltergeist while I watch. Influence from Stephen King’s IT and Firestarter also scream to be heard from underneath the Spielberg veneer. They combine to remind you of the lighthearted kid-based adventures of Spielberg with a much more sinister, potentially lethal, grounding. Think Poltergeist, but you’re not sure everyone is going to survive.

Why You Should Try This First Episode

I hate handing out recommendations to people I’ve just met, but I’m going to assume you like well-made entertainment. The Duffer Brothers have paid homage to the fashion, the music, the slang, and the overall feel of the mid-’80s. Some elements may seem overblown (see Steve Harrington’s hair), but I don’t get the feeling any aspect of the presentation is played for laughs or taken lightly. This is monster-movie mashed up with The Wizard of Oz set in a lovingly rendered 1983. If that sounds good to you, check out my PODCAST on this first episode. The other seven will follow shortly.

What Happens in the First Episode

Will Byers Vanishes. We meet the main characters. Your curiosity will require you to keep watching.

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Paul and Caroline Daley