TV Review | Stranger Things (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Jamie Mercer 18.09.2016 4

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Stranger Things (UK Rating: 15)

The '80s was a curious time. Bad clothing, even worse haircuts, and 'interesting' attitudes to make up were aplenty, making hundreds of childhood photo albums incredibly cringe-worthy. Thankfully, there were some positives to that time, as well. Spielberg was arguably in his pomp and Hughes was pushing out quirky teen-comedy after teen-comedy. John Carpenter was thrilling audiences with his sci-fi horror and while Rob Reiner introduced us to Stand By Me, plus the world was also treated to The Goonies. Stranger Things, available on Netflix now, manages to pay homage to all of the above and create a stellar, retro-inspired package that will surely stand the test of time.

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Set in 1983, Stranger Things follows the disappearance of Will Byers, a young, bookish boy in sleepy Hawkins, Indiana, as he makes his way home one night after playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. What follows over the course of eight episodes is an attempt by law enforcement to piece together various unusual instances in Hawkins while Will's friends conduct their own investigation into their buddy's vanishing act. Their search leads them to a mysterious runaway girl known only as 'Eleven' - an almost mute girl with doe-eyes and seemingly supernatural powers. Eleven recognises Will from a photograph and sparks the group's desire to investigate the apparent fate of their friend.

Underlying this detective work is the shady goings-on at the Hawkins research lab, a love triangle between Mike's sister Nancy, jock-with-a-heart Steve, and aloof outcast Jonathan, while a gangly Slender-like creature of pure evil stalks the youngsters of the town, drawn by teenagers' sexual advances and, especially, by blood. It's a pitch perfect homage to '80s cinema and, with its incredible synth-heavy soundtrack and use of of-the-period songs, really hammers home the nostalgia. Stranger Things manages to feel both brand new and refreshing, as well as familiar at the same time.


 
Winona Ryder, herself an 1980s icon, returns, after a lengthy delay, to a leading role as Joyce Byers - Will's mother - who struggles to cope with her son's disappearance, while Will's brother, Jonathan, struggles to support Joyce as she descends deeper and deeper into despair. Ryder produces a convincing display, although she won't be winning any awards unless they introduce an Emmy for chain-smoking and crying into telephones. David Harbour (The Newsroom, State of Affairs) plays Jim Hopper, the chief of Hawkins Police Department who has lapsed into alcoholism following the death of his daughter, and gives a solid performance as the surly, plays-by-his-own-rules cop. The real credit, though, has to be given to the 12-year-olds who make up the bulk of the cast. Mike, Lucas, and Dustin would not look out of place in a classic Spielberg flick, and Eleven's mannerisms and naivety are clearly inspired by ET - all she's missing is the glowing finger.

Image for TV Review | Stranger Things (Lights, Camera, Action!)

Credit to the costume and props department is certainly due, and the '80s feel is further reinforced by all of the references to long-forgotten gadgets and gizmos and parts of life that are, nowadays, made irrelevant. Walkie-Talkies are used for communication between the young companions, mix tapes are exchanged as currency for friendship, and the clothes and hairstyles manage to look authentic without verging on the side of being too ridiculous, as can often be the case.

Stranger Things wraps up satisfyingly enough, but leaves just enough unanswered questions to make a second series both viable and, through popular demand, necessary - something Netflix has responded to through commissioning a second season.

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Fun for most of the family, Stranger Things plays on some of the classic 1980s tropes and cinema conventions to provide a thoroughly enjoyable experience that more than earns its comparisons to Spielberg and film favourites from the decade of leg warmers. The young cast does an absolutely incredible job and is producing performances well beyond its years - especially Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. Season Two can't arrive soon enough.

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Comments

Heard so many good things about this. Just about everyone's been banging on about it! Gonna have to get on it, I think...

terence (guest) 19.09.2016#2

Easy to pick a "bad one" amongst the many offerings on Netflix. This caught my eye because Winona Ryder starred, not seen her for some years.Took me a little while to adapt to the storyline,thinking it somewhat cheesy initially. I must say however that after "the penny dropped" I thoroughly enjoyed the series and watched one episode per night. I am pleased to read that a second series is being produced.Great review.

Loved Stranger things.
It homage things without being a slave to anything. It zigged a few times when a zag was expected. Atmospheric, pacing, acting all spot on. 

I think my own crits are a few minor cliches - one in particular;


But thats just a small bit pick Smilie

Netflixs on a role with their original shows, and this is a jem in their crown.

Also made me check out Wayward Pines, by the same people.

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+
terence (guest) 20.09.2016#4

Yes. Wayward pines follows fairly closely with some shortcomings, the Trilogy by Blake crouch. Prefered the books,but bought into the series and enjoyed it.

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