I’m sorry if I tag along after the hype a bit too late, but I just got the chance (finally!) to watch the 8 episodes of one of the most successful TV series in recent years: Stranger Things (2016).
Directed by the Duffer twin brothers (Matt and Rose), this series revolves around a boy who goes missing and his geeky friends who are looking for him in a small town in Indiana, United States.
At the same time, the local police – led by sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) – and the families of the three main boys are involved in the search. To complicate the situation, a mysterious (and peculiar) girl appears out of the blue, chased by an ambiguous governmental organisation which is, also, on the pursuit for a creepy creature that’s terrorising the town.
All these stories and sub-plots bump into each other progressively, in a top-notch eighties mystery/horror exploitation.
I personally have little familiarity with the Duffer Brothers – I haven’t seen their feature-length horror movie Hidden (2015) and I can’t quite remember the two episodes of Wayward Pines (2015).
Nonetheless, their work deserves nothing but congratulations in regards to Stranger Things, where they were able to perfectly recreate the 80’s vibe of some classics, while paying homage to greats such as Carpenter, Lucas and King.
John Carpenter’s themes are particularly overwhelming throughout the episodes: from the soundtrack to the photography, to the locations and the colours, the director of The Thing (1982) is a constant presence in the series.
Whereas Stephen King’s influence is tangible specifically in regards to Stand by Me (1986), film directed by Rob Reiner which tells a coming-of-age story that both inspires and makes you cry.
Indeed, the combination between genres is one of the strengths of Stranger Things: Sci-Fi, horror, coming-of-age drama are immaculately blended together. In addition, a subtle humour refreshes every single episode, making for a nice change of tone where needed.
A series, though, is only as good as its character.
Fortunately, the cast is really impressive and each single character really compelling. Other than Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), who plays too much of a generic, evil villain to be fully reliable.
However, the other actors put together first-class performances: Wynona Ryder as Joyce Byers, mom of the vanished kid (Willy), is great in the role, likewise her son in the movie Jonathan (convincingly portrayed by Charlie Heaton) and the sheriff (whose charisma is tangible).
The real standouts, though, are the kids. Considering how hard it’s to find good child-actors, the Duffer Brothers made jackpot.
The four friends – Willy (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and, above all, Michael (Finn Wolfhard) – are well-rounded characters and can communicate a wide range of emotions. In addition, Eleven – the mysterious girl played by Millie Bobby Brown – is a complexed, intriguing protagonist who, despite not being particularly talkative (to use an euphemism…), through gestures and facial expressions, gets under your skin in the most positive way possible.
I could write about Stranger Things for longer but I prefer not to go too much into plot points and details, in case any of you hasn’t seen it yet. Because, the less you know about it, the better.
Just give it a try, please. Cheers!