Title: Stranger Things
Release Dates: 2016
Number of Episodes: 8
The hit of the summer is an homage to horror and thrillers of the 1980s, mixing the film aesthetic of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter with Stephen King’s “kids and monsters in Maine” formula transferred to Indiana. There are also elements of later works like Twin Peaks, Donnie Darko (itself a 1980s pastiche), and Broadchurch among others. Despite the effort to emulate the eighties ethos, Stranger Things is not a remake or a ripoff but a highly original work of its own. I don’t think a show this sophisticated would be made in the 1980s and the movies of that time would not have the time to develop the characters and the relationships so well. Movies in the 1980s would also rely on wowing the audience with special effects, but Stranger Things creates suspense by keeping most of the supernatural elements offscreen and in the imagination.
What’s great about Stranger Things is that it has three concurrent plots with different themes. A 12-year-old, Will Byers, goes missing and his best friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas go looking for him to be joined by the mysterious Eleven who has telekinetic powers, learning about friendship and forgiveness. A teenage story features Will’s brother Jonathon forming an unlikely alliance with Mike’s sister Nancy to hunt down the monster with Nancy’s boyfriend Steve acting as antagonist and sometimes ally. Finally, the adult story focuses on Will’s mother Joyce and police chief Hopper realizing that Will’s disappearance is not a typical runaway or abduction case and involves malicious behavior at the government’s Hawkins Lab.
The whole series is 8 episodes of brilliance – great acting, plotting, pacing, and dialogue – with a few scares thrown in. It’s worthy of the accolades it’s receiving and I recommend watching it if you haven’t checked it out yet.