Release Date – 15th July 2016
Netflix has secured its place amongst the top providers of original content alongside the likes of HBO, Fox, and AMC – to name but a few – where before it was primarily a platform on which those latter companies could stream their content. Although Netflix’s original content is far from perfect (I’m talking to you, Adam Sandler), the streaming service has been steadily releasing great shows such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Bojack Horseman and, most recently, Stranger Things. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen – or are part way through – the series yet, as this review contains no spoilers whatsoever.
The series comes from the combined minds of Matt and Ross Duffer, and takes place in Hawkins, a small, quiet American town that is rattled when a young boy, Will Byers, suddenly goes missing under strange circumstances. Although the disappearance is treated as quite run-of-the-mill at first, Will’s mother (Winona Ryder), friends, and Hawkins’ police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) start down a path that leads them through extraordinary and unbelievable events. When Will’s friends Mike, Dustin, and Lucas find a girl in the woods, their world is soon turned upside down as they learn that the world is much stranger than he could have ever imagined. The girl – later named Eleven – displays impossible abilities, and may hold the key to solving the mystery behind Will’s disappearance.
“This show reminds us of what is great about science fiction”
As each episode goes by the viewer is drawn deeper into the mystery surrounding Will’s vanishing as the characters are forced to wrestle with the realisation of supernatural or extra-terrestrial forces. Every episode deepens the web of mystery and suspense that its predecessor left in its wake, making the series perfect for binging and easily watchable in a single weekend. However, if you’re one who likes to take their time and savour a show, you’ll be left thinking about Stranger Things until you watch it again. With Game of Thrones’ latest season having recently come to its conclusion, and the seventh season of The Walking Dead not due to start until October, the Duffer brothers – along with Netflix – have supplied the perfect show to fill the void, matching the aforementioned in both entertainment and quality.
The series draws more than a little inspiration from 80’s science fiction and coming-of-age cinema, creating a welcome sense of nostalgia as the viewer is reminded of such classics as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or Stand By Me. Not only is Stranger Things set in the 80’s, it also pays homage to the decade’s most celebrated writers, directors, and actors by replicating the emotion, suspense, and grounded feeling that modern science fiction has been unable to live up to. The Duffer brothers have succeeded in creating a masterpiece of sci-fi and horror in Stranger Things, the likes of which would drive even Chris Columbus and Stephen King to envy.
If the gripping plot and relatably flawed characters aren’t enough to make you enjoy Stranger Things, then the soundtrack surely will. Scored by Kyle Dixon and Michael Klein, the soundtrack throws back to the 80’s, heavily relying on synth without falling into the trap of cheesiness. Dixon and Klein modernise and refresh the synth so as not to sound too outdated, whilst simultaneously reflecting the eerie tone of the series. The use of the score throughout key moments of the episodes gives them a cinematic feel that will hopefully be recaptured, should the show be greenlit for a second season.
Stranger Things is a series that appeals to everyone, whether they are fans of sci-fi or not. Those who were young in the 80’s can take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the movies they grew up with, and those who didn’t can get an idea of why 80’s cinema is so fondly remembered. This show reminds us of what is great about science fiction, and also lends credit to Netflix’s claim of being one of the best suppliers of original content.