011 reasons why Netflix’s Stranger Things is the must watch series of the summer
Despite debuting roughly 006 weeks ago on Netflix, The Duffer Brother’s Stranger Things is still a relevant topic of conversation, and it’s popularity doesn’t seem to be waning. Praised for it’s characterization, pacing, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing, and made in the spirit of films from several decades ago, Stranger Things is produced produced by Netflix and written and directed by the The Duffer Brothers (Ross and Matt). The supernatural period drama is set in a small town the 1980’s about the search for a young boy who goes missing under mysterious circumstances.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Netflix offers the following synopsis: A love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation, Stranger Things is set in 1983 Indiana, where a young boy vanishes into thin air. As friends, family and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl.
In an age where horror and supernatural themed shows are a dime a dozen, it’s impossible to discern which ones are worth your time. Below we offer a list of reasons why this one most definitely is.
011 – “Eleven”
Eleven is a captivating character from the moment she walks on screen, and young actress Millie Bobby Brown delivers a stellar performance. Despite having minimal dialog, she has an incredible ability to express a vast range of emotions with the most subtle changes in facial expressions and body language. With an array of powers and abilities, and a disturbingly unsettling past, Eleven is a young girl capable of nearly anything. However, even when she’s taking out villains in the most horrific way, she still maintains the utmost innocence. There’s something about this child that evokes protectiveness and pulls on your heartstrings. You’ll want to adopt her, wrap her in blankets, and feed her Eggo’s (okay, maybe that’s just me). Possibly one of the most endearing characters ever written, Eleven is truly magnetic.
010 – Title Sequence and Original Score
Set to a font that looks like something straight off a Stephen King novel, the synth-laden title sequence is both eerie and hypnotizing, and is reminiscent of early John Carpenter, Richard Greenber, Tangerine Dream, and the original Twilight Zone theme. The composers are Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of Austin synth band Survive. The duo have written over 13 hours of music for the show, and their music can be found on Bandcamp. Additionally, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of the Stranger Things score were recently released digitally, and physical releases are forthcoming.
Fun fact: The Stranger Things title font looks retro because it is. It was created by Ed Benguiat back in 1978, who has also made logos for Sports Illustrated, Playboy, The New York Times, along with movies such as Planet of the Apes, and Twin Peaks.
009 – Nostalgia
With innumerable sequels, reboots, and remakes, Hollywood has tried, mostly in vain, to capture that nostalgic feeling. Stranger Things pulls it off impressively, so much so that you’re right there in the 80’s with the characters without ever questioning it. The amount of meticulous effort that was put into capturing this era is unparalleled. Every detail from the hair, clothes, makeup, homes, vehicles, furniture, wallpaper, music, etc. is spot on. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but having grown up then, I remain entirely convinced. You can’t get any closer to experiencing the 80’s without actually watching a film from that time period. On a nostalgic scale of 001 – 010…this one goes to 011.
“We have so much nostalgia and love for this era. We really wanted to see something on television that was in the vein of the classic films we loved growing up: the Spielbergs, the John Carpenters, as well as the novels of Stephen King. And to us, what makes all of these stories so great to us – and so resonant – is that they all explore that magical point where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. When we were growing up, we were just regular kids, living in the suburbs of North Carolina, playing Dungeons and Dragons with our nerdy friends. But when we watched these films and read these books, we felt transported. Suddenly our lives had the potential for adventure – maybe tomorrow we would find a treasure map in the attic, maybe my brother would vanish into the TV screen. We really want to capture that feeling with Stranger Things. We want to bring that feeling to people who grew up on those films – and we also want to bring it to a whole new generation.” says Matt Duffer on the topic.
Fun fact: Although the show was shot digitally, a layer of real film grain was applied to help achieve a more vintage look.
008 – Genre Crossing
With elements of horror, sci-fi, adventure, coming of age drama, mystery, and even comedy, Stranger Things pulls of genre crossing better than most. Without leaning too heavily on any one, the series shifts among genres effortlessly and takes viewers on an exciting journey that fuels a range of emotions within each episode.
The Duffer brothers are unapologetically influenced by Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, which is evident in their effort to capture the feelings that both evoke. “We were obsessed with their books and movies because it felt their stories were about people we knew and you throw in the monsters, supernatural and UFOs and it then feels like you’re experiencing it yourself. We were influenced by so many things – movies, videogames and books, and then we kind of put it in a blender and mixed it up.” says Ross Duffer.
007 – The Music
While the Duffer Brother’s did a bang-up job on the visual side of the nostalgia front, they were admittedly a little more lax in the soundtrack department, as there are several tracks featured that aren’t totally period-accurate. That being said, it’s not a complaint and it doesn’t make the soundtrack any less fun, or any less 80’s. With artists including The Clash, Corey Hart, Joy Division, Modern English, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, among others, the Spotify playlist that the show put together of tracks featured is definitely worth a listen. What’s even more nostalgic than the music itself is a scene between Jonathan and his brother Will, in which the older brother presents the younger one with a mixed-tape. In a digital age where you can put together a playlist in a matter of minutes, the mixed-tape is truly a lost art, though one that’s likely to only be appreciated by those who lived in the era.
006 – The Cast and Performances
The entire cast of Stranger Things is not only remarkably talented, they manage draw you in right away and bring a realness to the screen that is both rare and magical. The chemistry among the characters and the way they vibe with one another is truly extraordinary and remarkable to behold. As and 80’s star appearing in a throwback to that decade, it’s endearing to see Winona Ryder in a prominent role, and she does a spectacular job in her portrayal of Joyce Byers. Furthermore, the child actors are so convincing that you can’t tell even for a moment that they’re acting. “There weren’t any other kids who could do these roles. These are the kids. We searched all over the world and auditioned thousands of young actors. Once we found our four main kids, they really inspired our writing and the characters.” said Ross Duffer on the young cast.
Fun fact: The Duffers had all the boys audition with scenes from Stand By Me.
005 – The Monster and The Villains
Something that many horror themed series and films commonly get wrong in this day and age is that ‘less is more’. The Duffer brother’s nailed this concept with Stranger Things, for both the monster and the villain. Not until the end of the series is the monster revealed in it’s full horrifying glory, and up until that point is only teased in shadowy glimpses of what lurks in the dark. Likewise, the main villain in the story is truly chilling. Eerily calm and a man of few words, the less he says the more sinister he becomes. All of which adds to the overall tension and mystery of the mythology, making it genuinely scary and giving the series an enthralling atmosphere.
004 – The Characters
The characters are one of the strongest elements of Stranger Things, capturing humanity on a level that’s exceedingly rare. Masterfully fleshed out, each and every character feels entirely genuine. Not only do they each stand on their own, but their interactions with one another seem both honest and real. While the story itself is compelling, the authenticity of the characters is the component that draws you in the most.
“For us, the scariest stuff from what we loved about the movies growing up was with people who we could relate to with very ordinary people who have extraordinary things happen to them. To us, that is always scarier.” – Ross Duffer
003 – Writing and Originality
While Stranger Things undeniably pays homage to a vast number of influences, from Stephen King’s IT and Stand by Me, E.T., The Goonies, Gremlins, Poltergeist, The Explorers, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Thing, Firestarter, A Nightmare on Elm Street, to name a few – or more than a few, it’s done in borrowed-not-stolen fashion. The writing is accomplished and stands on it’s own, telling an original story that’s gripping from beginning to end and creates it’s only compelling mythology. Despite being heavily nostalgic, it still manages to feel fresh, imaginative, engaging, inspired, and altogether addicting.
002 – Something for everyone
The numerous aspects of Stranger Things embody something else that’s truly rare…there’s something here for everyone. From diverse age groups to a mixture of genres, viewers of any age and a variety of interests are likely to find something special about this series that they find not only irresistible, but also relatable.
“We want everyone to watch the show,” says Ross. “If you’re a 12-year-old, you can relate to the kids, if you’re a teenager, you can relate to Jonathan and Nancy, and if you’re an adult you can relate to Winona and David’s characters. The kids are based on who we were like as kids playing nerdy games in the basement so I think adults will also see themselves in the kids.”
001 – It’s just plain fun
Ultimately, the foremost characteristic about Stranger Things is that it’s purely a fun viewing experience. It’s nostalgic enough to draw out the childhood imagination in everyone, and fresh enough to sweep viewers up and take them on an exciting journey that will not soon be forgotten.
“What’s fun about the show is that it’s a bit of a rollercoaster – it has a little bit of everything. We follow three different generations: kids, teens, and adults. We like to think of each of these generations as existing in a different 80s universe. The adults are in a Spielberg film — these imperfect individuals who slowly but inevitably come to realize that something very extraordinary is taking place around them. The teens are in an 80s horror film like Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, where the pains of high school and the loss of innocence is juxtaposed with supernatural evil. And the kids are in a Stephen King novel, like Stand by Me or It: nerdy outsiders from a small town who have to band together to face this terrifying horror.” – Matt Duffer
While Stranger Things may not be faultless or wholly original, it’s more than a worthwhile viewing experience that’s not to be missed. In all likelihood, you’ll be pining for more by the time you’re through the 8 episode series.
Image credits: Netflix