Are You Afraid of the Dark?
If any of these struck some childhood feels in you, then you definitely have to check out Stranger Things. It’s an underrated series that won’t just take you back to yesteryears. It’ll also take you as far as your imagination could possibly reach, including places dark and sinister. While it might not be as complex as Game of Thrones, Stranger Things was brilliant in its own unassumingly simple way.
I was a bit on the fence when I first saw its Star Wars-like poster on Netflix. I actually thought it was an old movie. But one rainy Saturday afternoon I decided to check it on Wikipedia, got intrigued, then watched the first episode…and the rest, as they say, was history that culminated in this unsolicited review.
Stranger Things opened with no frills, just thrills, so gripping I was left wide-eyed, mouth gaping as the opening credits rolled in. It was surreal to see Winona Ryder’s name lead the pack of intros, but there was something else that made me feel like damn now I have to finish this. As the ominous red streaks revealed themselves as the series title, it brought a wave of childhood nostalgia, me half-scared half-braving late night reads of Stephen King paperbacks. I couldn’t help but get strangely attached to that ominous synthesized musical scoring that’s so menacingly good.
I roller-coastered my way through all eight episodes. Sometimes I loved it, sometimes it was a bit dragging. But when I finally saw Winona Ryder’s face lit up beneath a hazmat suit, punctuated with her signature harried-worrier look, I realized why I made time and went straight home for this Netflix binge—it was Aliens all over again, and I’m transported back to 1999, watching my first sci-fi film together with my parents via rented VHS tapes. Though the Duffer Brothers, creators of Stranger Things, chose 1983 as its time period, a 90s kid who woke up to New Wave non-stop hits blasting on Sunday mornings would definitely feel right at home.
This series is a young adult thriller and it’s not as scary as its “horror” label is wont to make you think. While the plot seemed a little predictable, the series still managed to cleverly sequence events to pull the rug from beneath your expectant feet, and sometimes even prank the hell out of your calm and collectedness. All in all, I think it efficiently mixed sci-fi with high fantasy within the horror/thriller genre. Throw X-Files, Holes, and LOTR together in a blender and you get a freshly squeezed Stranger Things smoothie ready for the taking.
While the overall story is juvenile compared to Walking Dead’s character development, among the gems that made Stranger Things shine in its own way was its well-calculated 80s vibe. One minute you’re marveling at the box-type cars, phones with rotating dials, and high-waist straight cut jeans paired with Tretorns, the next second you’re holding your breath because something from the darkened shadows are threatening to come out—monsters are both human and of the otherworldly kind. And the musical scoring–The Clash, Foreigner, Bangles–also bring you back to those days when all you ever worried about were crushes and homework.
During scenes when the Hawkins folks weren’t fighting off unknown enemies using hunting gear and telekinesis, you will enjoy just looking at their leather-jacket shenanigans wondering how humanity once survived without social media for updating relationships or Snapchat pool parties with #bae. In Stranger Things, a teenager actually uses an Olympus SLR to capture photos, places his faith on a hot shoe flash for nighttime photography, and develops his films in a dark room like he’s just hanging laundered shirts to dry. This same teenager would eventually gift his kid brother with a cassette mixtape–an event so spot on for me, a vision of doing manual rewinds with a Panda ballpoint pen just inevitably came to mind.
Stranger Things, when stripped off its thrills and throwback feels, has these pillars to support its binge-worthiness: friendship, love, and underdogs. It is a feel-good thriller that shows you kids can be a little too mature for their age, and that might be a good thing. Perhaps there is true wisdom in the saying, “books before boys”.
In a nutshell, it is a nostalgia series that could also be the brainchild of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. It’s perfect for Gen X and millenials.
But, most of all, it’ll remind you of that often overlooked yet real human superpower that could move not just the proverbial mountain but also literal time-space continuums—true friendship.