Here I am again, wanting to review something when all my brain can think is “EEEEEE JUST WATCH IT.”
That something, as the title suggests, is the hot Netflix original series “Stranger Things” (I know, you gotta stay sharp around here).
The ’50s had remakes in American Graffiti, Grease and “Happy Days.” The ’60s had “The Wonder Years.” The ’70s had Dazed and Confused. Now it looks like it’s the ’80s’ turn to wax nostalgic about (and isn’t THAT depressing to us Gen X’ers?)
Well, if the movies of Matthew Broderick, Molly Ringwald, and Winona Ryder ruled your childhood, have I got the show for you… (It’s still “Stranger Things.” STAY SHARP.)
Short summary: The lives of four nerdy friends are turned upside down when they meet Eleven, a mysterious girl with supernatural powers mixed up with a sinister government agency.
I don’t want to give too much away. What I can say is, this show melts in your mouth, it’s so ’80s. It’s a love letter to so many movies of that decade, like E.T., Stand By Me and The Goonies, to name a few (in fact, someone with far more free time than me made a side-by-side supercut; however major spoilers so watch at your own risk).
It draws on a lot of classic ’80s formulas: Pretty girl at school falls for the douchebag bully, ignoring the much cuter, decent, yet inexplicable outcast–check. Nearly autonomous kids with virtually absentee parental figures–check. The aforementioned shady, menacing government agency–check. Again, just to name a few.
And the eye candy. From a glimpse of a Trapper Keeper in a locker to He-Man on the telly, everywhere I looked I saw my childhood. What got me most excited was this board game…
…and this banana bike seat…
…both of which I haven’t seen or thought of in 30 years.
In case there’s any doubt of the era, check out the promo poster, which might look comfortingly familiar.
Not only is it in the style of Raiders or Star Wars, but the font looks like every classic Stephen King title (or, for an even deeper cut, the Choose Your Own Adventure series).
Something about it makes my mouth water.
Yes, it’s aggressively ’80s. Even the music (naturally), although they avoided wallpapering it with top 40 hits, which would have been easy to do but distracting as hell (I still think music hasn’t been nearly as good since). They limited themselves to one recognizable track per episode, and the rest is highly fitting original synthesized Casio keyboard instrumentals. (The big track in episode five “The Flea and the Acrobat” is Elegia by New Order, and my breath literally caught in my throat.)
The sum is greater than its parts. Come for the spot-on homage, stay for the creature feature. It’s Poltergeist. It’s Aliens. It’s Close Encounters. It’s Firestarter. Yet it manages to still be somewhat original (and even scared me at times, no easy feat by a long shot).
But I’ve saved the best for last. The stars are all kids (apart from Winona Ryder as a mom on the edge after her son goes missing, and Matthew Modine who might not be completely believable as a villainous scientist, as well as a non-80s icon, David Harbour as Chief Hopper (who I originally mistook for Modine and I thought looked awful but by the end I grew to love him), and for the most part their acting is good enough to forget they’re just kids.
Then there’s Eleven, the mysterious girl with strange powers, played by Spanish-born Millie Bobby Brown. This girl is mesmerizing and intense and beautiful and fierce and heartbreaking, and I want her to be in everything I watch from now on. She has more emotional range without ever saying a word than a lot of A-list stars. Get ready, you’re about to be spammed:
All I can say is, if she doesn’t become huge then I’m never watching anything but Pretty in Pink and Heathers ever again.
In conclusion, this is an amazing show. Stop reading my foolish blathering and go see for yourself. You can thank me later. (Sorry if this is a bit lame, I’ve already written about how bad I am with reviews of things I love.)
If you’d like to know more, this guy says everything better, I just don’t have an entertaining video.