As of July 15th, Netflix has released their best original series yet. “Stranger Things,” the 8 episode dramatic mystery, is catching fire. Set in the 1980s and rich with old movie references and unique filming techniques, “Stranger Things” follows the story of a small town in Indiana shaken by the disappearance of a young boy named Will. As his frantic mother, his three best friends, and a telekinetic girl named Eleven search for him, it becomes clear that something much darker is going on.
According to SymphonyAM, in the first two weeks of being released, over 8 million people have watched “Stranger Things,” and as that number keeps rising, there’s no question of this Netflix original doing incredibly well. With a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even the most critical viewers are loving it.
Netflix has been doing consistently well with their original series such as “Orange is The New Black,” “Jessica Jones,” “Daredevil,” and “Narcos,” getting similarly positive ratings.
“Stranger Things” has all the right elements for a good mystery show. Being set in the 1980s and encompassing that small-town-drama feel, “Stranger Things” has the perfect amount of nostalgia, horror, and suspense. The nostalgia part comes into play as we see tons of references to 1980s movies. This show feels like a mashup of tens of different directors. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before, but never done quite this well.
The show splits the screen time between the adults and his best friends, and this gives “Stranger Things” one of their biggest assets. “Stranger Things” fleshes out all of the characters, even the ones who aren’t the main focus. We see Chief Hopper’s emotional anguish as he compares his search for Will to the loss of his own daughter. We see Nancy, a young teenager go through the woes of high school. We also see the downward spiral of Will’s mother, Joyce, as she deals with the stress of her missing son, and is one of the first to realize that there may be something more to Will’s disappearance. “Stranger Things” spent a good deal of time introducing us to these characters. This fleshing out of the characters makes it easy to care for them, easy to root for them, and easy to love them.
One of the most fascinating characters in “Stranger Things” would be the small, PTSD bearing, telekinetic girl named Eleven. Ripped from her family by the “bad men”, Eleven escaped from a prison like environment where she underwent terrible tests, meant to exploit her powers. When she meets Mike and his friends, she’s very timid, but quickly becomes attached to her new friends. With Eleven’s powers, the kids find themselves both with more power than before and in more danger. Eleven finds comfort in the three children as they care for and hide her from evil government forces. In return, Eleven ends up being a huge help in finding their friend Will.
However, Will’s disappearance isn’t as simple as it seems. Bringing together mythical and horror elements, “Stranger Things” creates a terrifying reality for these children, Will, and the adults.
The three boys find that their missing best friend is trapped in The Upside Down. The Upside Down is a mirrored version of the real world, run by a terrifying monster. Ironically, The Upside Down looks similar to the video game series “Silent Hill.” Everything looks like it’s taken from something else, and while normally that may be a bad thing, “Stranger Things” executes it perfectly.
The monster that runs The Upside Down is elusive, but also visually and emotionally terrifying. For the first half of the show it’s not clear where the monster is or how the monster works, and so this creates the suspense that most regular horror fans love. “Stranger Things” does a great job of giving this monster a presence. The audience feels that it’s there, even when no one can see it.
As the children band together with Will’s mother and the police chief, they all must face this other dimension, the monster that runs it, and somehow save their beloved friend and son from its grip.
Many are calling this show an 80s throwback, but that’s not what it is. This show brings you to the time period. It doesn’t prey on the tropes of the 80s but actually feels like it belongs there.
The ending of “Stranger Things” leaves a lot of things open for a potential season two, and although viewers are hopeful, it has not been officially confirmed. In the mean-time, season one stands alone as an intriguing story that was wonderfully shot, filled with references for the older viewers, and is overall well done.