I’m perhaps a little late to the party with this one, and I heard a lot of good things about Stranger Things, but after finishing up a few shows I was watching, I finally got around to the 80s horror/ sci-fi homage that had been filling my Facebook feed for weeks. And I can report that I have very few bad things to say about it.
Firstly, I might add that I didn’t live through the 80s so a lot of the references might have gone straight over my head, but within minutes of watching, I was already consumed in this world that simulated a lot of old Stephen King movies and sci-fi flicks.From its opening credits, to the soundtrack, it perfectly invoked a world to which it paid homage.
But for all its intentional tropes and cliches, Stranger Things presents a great cast of characters and a pretty investable story, the likes of which you might find in a feature-length movie, so I’m grateful that we got a little longer to explore the story in its TV format. The bravado of the boys definitely reminded me of Stephen King’s IT and ET also, my favourite of which was Dustin, who offered much of the comic relief.
And speaking of comedy, Stranger Things had, I think, a perfect mix of genuinely tense horror scenes, laugh out loud comedy, drama, and mystery. It effectively takes all of the best elements of all of the genres and their respective tropes from 80s movies, and combines them into one, which could have gone terribly wrong, but thankfully hit the nail on the head.
And as a side note on references, there was one scene where the boys hide from a helicopter ahead, which bore a lot of similarity to a scene from The Fellowship of the Ring where the party hide from Saruman's birds. I wonder if that was intentional, because it doesn't quite fit the theme, but at the same time, why not reference a great movie? Or quite possibly I was just imagining the correlation.
There were times when the characters reacted very humanly to events, and others where they seemed relatively unaffected by life-threatening events, the latter of which is quite conventional for its genres, and as a result you can kind of see where the show fades between its various genres. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind, it adds a little more character to the show. Similarly with the special effects: some of the visuals were really good for a television production, and others were almost laughable, the way children would laugh at the special effects of The Thing, let’s say, which again is very in line with its conventions but maybe next season they’ll step up the sfx with a higher budget.
I would certainly welcome future seasons, but I wonder whether the writers will keep the same cast, or mix it up like American Horror Story or something. I think either approach would work well, because there’s definitely potential for deeper characterisation, yet at the same time I feel as though the season rounded off quite nicely. I suppose that remains to be seen. I know the writers have said their ideas for a second season are ‘darker and weirder’ which, as a massive horror fan, I’d welcome.
Overall, I really enjoyed Stranger Things, an unexpected treat when it turned up on Netflix. Now if A Series of Unfortunate Events would be released, that’d be great.