Like many right now, I’ve fallen in love with the Netflix original series Stranger Things. It was tailor made for someone like me. It’s set in the 80s with an accurate aesthetic. There are references galore to the 80s mainstays with a special emphasis on Spielberg and Stephen King. It’s a horror-heavy science fiction story with a mystery to unpack as the series plays out. They couldn’t have asked for an easier audience to hook than me.
What makes Stranger Things work for everyone, in my opinion? For starters, the references are fun but not essential. By that I mean that you needn’t be an expert on early King or have watched E.T. and Alien. That makes it more fun certainly, but you don’t have to be on the inside of every nod to another work. It works on its own.
That’s where what Stranger Things does is unique in our current, entertainment atmosphere. We’ve all heard it said that we’re stuck with remakes, reboots, and adaptations. Stranger Things is none of that. Yes, it’s an homage to the things we love that have come before, but it’s not only that. It’s original. One of the best examples of that is when we reach a moment that looks like it’s about to play out exactly like a famous scene from E.T., then it’s beautifully subverted. It handles the same situation from that film in a much darker and frankly more badass way. I feel like that was The Duffer Brothers, the show’s creators, telling us that it’s all well and good to nod to the things that came before, but you better do something different with it. Otherwise, what is the point in perpetually repeating ourselves?
We have the group of kids getting in way over their heads. We have the mysterious girl with powers. We have the washed-up cop trying to do the right thing. We have the frantic mother of the missing boy. But we also have nuance and character development and fantastic acting to go along with this familiar territory. It’s not stale, and it’s not cliche.
When talking about this, I have to mention the monster. The Demogorgon. When it first appeared, I thought we were headed toward alien abduction territory, and I felt myself yawn inwardly. There’s not much that hasn’t already been done with that, considering The X-Files has spent ten season and two movies covering the topic. Then it went in a direction I didn’t foresee, and the Demogorgon became one of the most existentially, cosmically frightening creatures I’ve ever seen in fiction. Many horror writers would blush upon realizing they’ve never managed to be this scary before. As a horror fan, I want to recommend this show based on that. You will find yourself with that dawning fridge horror, understanding slowly how terrifying a creature like the Demogorgon really is. It would actually be preferable if all he did was eat you.
Even beyond that, the great story and the great monster, this show has an incredible emotional core. It will rip your heart out, put it back, and rip it out again several times over. For only eight episodes in all, it packs such a punch. That ending was deliciously ambiguous, too. Bring on season two, please!
I hope this review convinced some of you to try the show. It’s a solid 5/5 from me. If you want to support this blog, check out my RedBubble Shop. I just recently put up two designs inspired by Stranger Things. Buying, sharing, anything at all helps me out a lot. And as always, happy geeking!