Stranger Things (2016): Friday Night Pick
Have you been watching Netflix’s Stranger Things? If not, you need to right now. This Friday we’re making an exception and recommending a show instead of a movie, but if ever there was a show worthy to make an exception for, this is the one. This a review of the first four episodes.
Stranger Things is a Netflix original series about a boy in a small town who goes missing after playing a long game of Dungeons & Dragons with his three best friends. On that same night, a young girl, her head shaven and wearing a hospital gown, sneaks into a diner to steal food. To find out what happened to the boy and how the little girl is connected, a mother, a police chief and a group of kids must face a terrible dark force, a monster born of nightmares that seems to come from another dimension.
The best way to describe Stranger Things is to say it’s E.T. meets The Goonies meets Alien meets The X-Files meets Steven Spielberg meets Stephen King . . . and it’s incredible. There are so many things done right in this show, which is no mean feat when it takes from so many different sources of inspiration.
Because this show centres around a group of kids as they try to find their friend, it is all the more jarring when the monster comes out… and it’s actually terrifying. The creature in this film almost comes from a place akin to the creature from The Thing; it’s subtle in the way it makes it’s way into the story and yet when it’s there, it’s undeniably scary. Don’t worry about cheap jump scares, this really isn’t about that; the scares come from a deeper, darker place and although there are a lot of lighter moment in this show, we know that this evil is lurking just below the surface throughout. During the show (probably in the first episode), you’ll find yourself falling in love with the characters. There are so many different strong personalities in this show and the acting is really impressive, especially when you consider how young a majority of the cast is.
This show will make you believe in the boogeyman in the shadows of your bedroom corner, it will make you believe in the power of true friendship and it will make you want to want to believe in the power of good over evil. Simply put, this show is a lot of fun. It’s innocent and brings back memories of a simpler time for a lot of people. A time when the most important things in life were making sure that you had a good bike and a new adventure to go on.
With this show, the Duffer Brothers have created something truly special. It’s something that combines so many elements that hold a special place in our hearts and yet, all of these combined element become stronger together in Stranger Things. The sic-fi monster is made more perilous because Mike, Lucas and Dustin will do anything to get Will from it’s clutches; the harried sheriff is made more relatable because he’s willing to bend the rules to find the truth that is out there (except in the morning, as they are reserved for coffee and contemplation); the high school jock and resident tough guy shows that he’s willing to make amends and do what it takes to do what’s right. Stranger things plays with the typical tropes and proves to be so much more.
All the elements come together to make something so truly special, something that will make you believe in friendship and what it really means to protect the people that you love.
Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) are best friends. They play Dungeons & Dragons together, win the school science fair year after year, are the only members of the AV club and believe that nothing breaks a spit swear. One day, when Will goes missing, they know that they have to find him. And thus begins Stranger Things.
This episode will have you guessing what comes next and desperately trying to determine who your favourite character is. There is usually one character in a show that we are really drawn to, but in this show there are so many to love. From the strange outsider, Johnathan (Charlie Heaton), to the the desperate Joyce (Winona Ryder), to the jaded Hopper (David Harbour) and the mysterious Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), not to mention the four boys, the characters are so rich and alive. They’re all so well thought out and perfectly cast (talk about talent) that you’ll immediately become invested in them and ultimately the show.
The music. (by SURVIVE)
The music. Seriously. It just gets better as the show goes on.
“You wanna know the worst thing that’s happened here in the four years I’ve worked here? The worst thing? It was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie because it thought her hair was a nest.”
Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street
If you thought the first episode was gripping, hold on to your butt. This one jumps right back into the fray. The boys try to figure out who Eleven is and where she came from while Joyce and Hopper search for Will.
This episode really delves into what it means to be a friend. For the boys and El, for Nancy and Barb, and for Joyce and Hopper. The whimsical nature of the show allows you to escape from reality but there are a lot of real world scenarios that are so relatable. That’s one of the reasons this show is so successful, all the choices feel like there’s choices that a real person would make. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of middle aged people wrote a script about kids that they can’t remember being; it feels like kids are talking to kids and a desperate mother is talking to a real sheriff.
Trying out the La-Z-Boy.
Eleven (aka El). Amazing character and Millie Bobby Brown is incredibly talented.
“A friend is…”
Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly
Barb didn’t come home from the party last night and Nancy is getting worried. Joyce tries to find a way to communicate with Will, Hopper tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on at the eerie local government lab and Mike has to explain what Mouth-Breathers are to El. Again, we are pulled even further into the mysteries that surround Will, and now Barb’s, disappearances. More and more questions are asked and we’re all too eager to start putting together some answers.
All of Lucas’ supplies “From Nam”
Chapter Four: The Body
This is the episode that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. If this doesn’t get under your skin, then I’m not sure what will. When Will’s body is found in a local quarry, his mother, Joyce, refuses to believe it’s really him. She knows in her bones that he is still out there, somewhere, waiting for her to find him.
The body, the body, the BODY!
“Okay, remember, if anyone sees us look sad.” (Lucas and Dustin show El how to look sad). In addition to this point, I’m going to add a 1.2 and include the part where they explain that El (Eleanor) is from Sweden, “Sub-zero.”
Joyce (Winona Ryder). What a wonderful performance; she really nails the desperate (bordering on crazed) mother and her unwavering belief that Will is alive is so touching.
Click the image to listen to our podcast on Stranger Things
Stranger Things (2016)
Director(s): Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer
Actor(s): Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer