Netflix continues to diversify with their original content offerings with Stranger Things from creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer. This 80s retro series revolves around the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) one night. The plot evolves as new town mysteries develop, secrets are unburied, and the monster continues to stalk unsuspecting prey. I commend casting director, Carmen Cuba for finding such amazing kid actors for these very familiar parts. Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) is the stubrron leader, Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughline) is the questioning lieutenant, and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) is our lovable comedian. Together it’s like watching the Goonies all over again, especially when the older kids plot line, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), and Steve Harrinton (Joe Kerry), cross paths with their small town’s monster. Personally, the real stand out is Millie Bobby Brown, who plays government science experiment escapee, Eleven. The young actress steals scenes from her co-stars through the mere use of her eyes; she emits compelling raw emotion without any dialogue. After binge watching this series I am not only looking forward to watching how these characters evolve with the next installment, but their future acting careers too.
The series takes a miss-step during their attempt to reach mature audiences with all of the parents. I should have felt more sympathetic for Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) as she manically tries to find her son, but her frantic behavior just annoyed me. Joyce does appear more tolerable when in the presence of police Chief Hopper, who takes a more scenic route in the case. Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono) is used just enough to make her apathetic nature more engaging than other adult characters. The writers spend about three episodes really focusing on these character’s faults in terms of their respective families. Then during the second half each character’s redemption is competing with fascinating answers about the central mystery. Both creators unashamedly pay homage to Speilberg science fiction and those sentimental coming of age films from our childhood. The heightened horror elements embedded within the story distinguishes it from other attempts at capturing nostalgic magic on screen, like Super 8. This series’ nostalgia belongs to both it’s youthful characters and the youth of an entire generation; so let’s focus on bottling up more of that childhood magic in any upcoming Stranger Things installments.
Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street
Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly
Chapter Four: The Body
Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat
Chapter Six: The Monster
Chapter Seven: The Bathtub
Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
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