I grew up in the 80s, and I must admit that nostalgia sways my opinion about films and TV shows set in my formative era. That said, Netflix's new series Stranger Things is easily the best show of the summer crowded with very strong genre contenders (Preacher, Outcast, BrainDead). It is an ambitious love letter to kinds of films that I love.
Divided into eight "chapters" the story (that due to it's brevity is best discovered than discussed here) echoes early Stephen King and his infamous "The Shop" where gifted people were studied and exploited. There's also early John Carpenter references to his weirder sci-fi mind-bending elements (long live the new flesh!), and topped with Steven Spielberg's unique family-oriented perspective where kids in peril undertake some great adventure. It's a very wild, serious, entertaining and emotionally resonant concoction that seems so perfectly out of time.
Written and directed by newcomers, The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things unfurls efficiently with absolutely no filler. Binging on this show definitely brings out its more cinematic underpinnings, because really, it's an 8-hour movie. Every episode seamlessly moves into the other with cohesive style and pace. It helps that the creators directed the majority of the series, a rarity in scripted series.
Much of the success can also be attributed to the incredible young cast who gives very rare, natural performances. Their camaraderie feels like these kids actually grew up together. Even the mostly unknown adult ensemble pulls off great performances. Winona Ryder is strangely not the standout with her quirky, affected performance that is a bit over the top. Add to this very understated costumes, props, sets, and lighting that complete the mood of quintessential 80s filmmaking.
This is a must-watch for fans of 80s horror/sci-fi and highly recommended for general audiences. It may not have the flashy effects, jump scares, or be saturated with CGI, but this is a very special series and one of the best that Netflix has produced.