Two weeks ago today, Netflix released their latest original series to little fanfare – an eight-part thriller titled Stranger Things.
From the original trailer, we didn’t know much. It had a Spielbergian vibe, somehow scored Winona Ryder, and involved some general spookiness in a small town.
Since the release, I slowly worked my way through all eight episodes, and over the weekend, completed the series. With some reflection, I’ve come to say this: Stranger Things is not only one of Netflix’s finest original programs, not only one of the best shows of the year, but – personally – might be one of my favorite television programs of all time.
Created by The Duffer Brothers, relative unknowns to the industry (they had some television writing work before this), Stranger Things goes beyond being a Super 8-esq love letter to 1980’s cinema. The series absolutely devours the 1980’s aesthetic, to where it grows beyond a fetishizing of what was, and into a great work that stands alongside those it clearly worships.
All of the greats can be seen here: Stand By Me, John Carpenter’s The Thing, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Poltergeist, even anthology series like Tales from the Darkside, countless movies devoured by the kids of the 1980’s and 1990’s have been chopped, cut, and re-created to tell a new spooky tale that somehow feels as fresh and relevant for today as it would’ve in the era that it is set, 1983.
Even the soundtrack – provided by members of the synth group S U R V I V E – carries a John Carpenter-esq feel. I’ve desperately wanted to give it a listen since completing the series, and thankfully, the soundtrack is coming. I have to give credit to whoever chose the licensed tunes for the series, as well. They picked some great 1980’s songs, but even some surprise contemporary tracks, including Peter Gabriel’s minimal, orchestral take on David Bowie’s “Heroes”.
I could literally gush for hundreds of words about the strength of the cast. Decent child actors are hard to find, and it certainly sounds like the Duffers had to run quite the gauntlet to find the kids they did, but the effort was worthwhile.
From the toothless Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), to the ethereal and creepy Eleven (brit Millie Bobbie Brown), to our main protagonist Mike (Finn Wolfhard, who I am excited to see in It), these kids are the real deal. But it helps to have an incredible cast around them – The Newsroom‘s David Harbour doing career-defining work as the local police chief, Jim Hopper. 80’s it-girl Winona Ryder subverting her career and growing into the worried mother after being the ingenue. Even young lovers Nancy (Natalia Dyer, who would’ve been a perfect scream-queen in the Nightmare on Elm Street days) and her boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery, looking like he could be Ben Schwartz’s brother), the perfect asshole. And who can forget Barb (Shannon Purser), the BFF who has had a cult built around her? (Seriously, check out the actress’s Twitter page. It’s crazy.)
Every episode is perfectly paced. Fantastic cliffhangers, brilliant edge-of-your seat storytelling. The title screen (and its brilliant typography) bring Stephen King to mind, and the show could’ve easily been a lost novel of his – complete with the page-turning intensity.
I cannot say enough great things about this show. You need to watch this show. If you read this blog: you will love this show. Join the Stranger Things cult.
One last note: currently, while they have yet to be picked up, The Duffer Brothers are telling the world they have an idea for a second season, a sequel to the first. I can say this – the landing is stuck SO well, I’m not sure that I want to see one.
But at the same time, I know that I’ll stay up until 3am Eastern the day the second season releases to watch it. Once a fanboy, always a fanboy.
Stranger Things is streaming now on Netflix.