So I’d been resisting the temptation to watch Netflix’s smash hit of the summer, Stranger Things, since everyone I knew was watching it. But I was going to cave eventually. And with a lot of code to run and a lack of interest in this year’s movies, I finally caved. If you want to know whether I liked it or not … I’ll just tell you that I binge-watched it in two days.
The series is very good. I’m curious to see how it will watch a second time without a binge, but I found it to be moving, tense and thrilling.
The series has become most famous for its 80’s nostalgia and I will admit that this aspect of the series is done very well. It’s not just that it has oblique references to 80’s pop culture; it’s that it feels like the 80’s. The music, the title sequence, the color palette, the set decoration, the homages to films like E.T. and Alien. Sans the CGI, this could easily have been something made by Spielberg or Cameron (after you watch it, you can check out this video which goes through some of the more direct 80’s homages).
But 80’s nostalgia will only get you so far, as Hollywood is finding out right now. What really makes the series good is that it’s just … good. It lays its foundations down in strong characters who are well-written and well-acted. Ryder and Harbour are particularly good but all the actors do well. It has a decent and intriguing plot*. And it shrouds this all in metric tons of atmosphere. I give it a strong recommendation, even to people who are not necessarily fans of sci-fi or horror. I was hooked by middle of the first episode.
This year has been awful for movies. Almost every big blockbuster has been a disappointment. But television — particularly shows produced by the “other studios” like HBO and Netflix — has been getting steadily better and better. And Stranger Things is definitely one of those good shows. I’m looking forward to Season 2.
(*The plot bothered me because for the last few weeks I’ve been sketching out a similar plot for a new story. The story — working title Oddish — takes place in a college town not a million miles different from State College. It focuses on residents of the town who find things happening that are not scary or alarming (at least at first) but just odd. I don’t want to give away too much since it may never be written or may go in a different direction. But any writer will understand why I was both elated and saddened to see that Stranger Things shares a lot of elements with Oddish.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll turn my attention back to Dreams in the Long Dark.)