Director: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy
Writer: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Jesse Nickson-Lopez, Justin Doble, Paul Dichter, Jessica Mecklenburg, Alison Tatlock
Music: Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein
Format: Streaming (Netflix)
Series Length: 8 episodes
Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers
Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner
Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers
David Harbour as Jim Hopper
Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler
Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson
Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair
Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler
Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven
Noah Schnapp as Will Byers
During my childhood, there were certain movies and television shows that I felt “got” me. Media that was specifically aimed at my demographic that seemed to understand what it meant to be a child that was a little different. I loved sports, but was never super athletic. I would rather grab a copy of Shocker on Shock Street or a collection of Alvin Schwartz stories than a baseball bat. My idea of a great time was a trip to the video store to rent A Nightmare on Elm Street III for the fourth weekend in a row. So when I was introduced to The Goonies, The Monster Squad, E.T., Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps (TV series) and so on, I felt like it was cool to be uncool.
Now, it seems like young adults have a little taste of what I felt back in the yearly 90s. With shows like Gravity Falls and the new Scooby Doo mysteries (just to name a couple), there’s still a flow of media out there to reach the next generation of obsessed super fans. But these aren’t quite the same. They are missing that key element of nostalgia. Nostalgia for the 80s babies. That is, until this past weekend, when Netflix dropped a bomb of what it was like to grow up in a time before twitter and smart phones.
Stranger Things takes places in Illinois in 1983. A clan of 4 middle-schoolers (very reminiscent of my school yard chums) are gathered in a basement neck deep in an exciting game of Dungeons and Dragons. Mike (Wolfhard), Dustin (Matarazzo), Lucas (McLaughlin) and Will (Schnapp) wrap up their 10 hour session and the visiting boys are sent home. On the way, Will is frightened off the road and proceeds to be chased home. Seeking shelter in his tool shed, the being that chased him has caught up to him and Will mysteriously disappears.
Meanwhile, across town, a strange girl with a shaved head shows up at a local burger joint, sneaks into the kitchen and chows down on leftovers. Wearing a tattered hospital gown and an intense scowl, the girl soon reveals a secret to the audience; an ability to control things with her mind. The mystery of this girl all traces back to a secret government lab, protected by a large, barbed wire fence and checkpoint stands with soldiers, where testing is being done. Only, no one in town knows exactly what kind of testing goes on within its monstrous walls.
I really don’t want to give too much away here. The disappearance of Will turns the Byers family upside down. Convinced that her youngest son is still alive, Joyce (Ryder) will stop at nothing to find him. Will’s friends also believe that Will is still alive, only stuck in a place unseen by the human eye.
The Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross) are magnificent in this series effort. Creating the series and directing most of the episodes, they encapsulated the very essence of the 80s child adventure. Pitting pre-teen kids up against almost impossible odds. Shawn Levy (director of This is Where I Leave You, The Internship, The Night at the Museum films and many others) adds his directing prowess in 2 episodes and a plethora of writers helped in creating this exciting universe where nothing is exactly what it seems. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein add a jaw-dropping score to the adventure that accommodates the action while creeping you out.
As far as acting goes, Ryder, Modine, and Harbour give excellent performances. Truly believable roles delivered with the poise and grace that is expected from these experts of their craft. With that said, in my opinion, they play second fiddle to the kids. I was very impressed with the acting of Wolfhard, McLaughlin, Schnapp, Brown, Matarazzo, Heaton and Dyer. Their performances took me right back to childhood, battling monsters in my backyard with my neighborhood crew of ragamuffins. Be it great directing or just natural talent, these kids stole the show.
Let’s put a bow on this. I can’t say enough about the awesome power of this series. It’s funny, action-packed, frightening and all-around fantastic. If you haven’t caught the bug yet, jump on board! Still not sold? That’s cool. Check out this trailer and see how you feel afterwards.