Stranger Things is the latest Netflix original series to hit the streaming service and is currently the most talked about new show on your social media feed so we here at ICP thought it was about time we woke up our resident old man and ask Mat to say a few things about the show.
Firstly, let me get something out of the way. I’m a child of the 80’s and cut my teeth with stuff like this. I was raised on a healthy diet of VHS tapes (for our younger readers VHS tapes are like an old fashioned Netflix which you had to go outside to get and take back once you had finished with them) Some of my oldest and most cherished memories involve my older brother walking me down to the local video store on a Saturday afternoon searching for some gold for family movie night. Some were family friendly, some crazy sci-fi and fantasy and others were just down right inappropriate for a child to be watching. Chucky is still the reason I have to turn on all the lights when I get home. So Stranger Things was something of a nostalgia trip for me, which had me worried because they say you can never go home and I have been burnt badly before… I’m looking at you Monster Squad.
Right off the bat one of the defining parts of the show is it’s title card. This wonderfully old school graphic, complete with video tracking fuzz (you youngsters have no idea how much time you have saved by not having to worry about tracking during a movie) comes straight out of the world of 80’s horror cinema. It’s pretty clear that the creators of the show have a very strong affinity for John Carpenter because this opening sequence could quite easily be replaced at the beginning of Prince of Darkness and no one would notice the change. Also, the swirling 80’s synths are very Carpenter-esque. For anyone unfamiliar with John Carpenter’s catalogue, he was pretty famous for not only composing the soundtracks for his movies but also starring in the tie-in music video. Don’t believe me? go search for the Big Trouble In Little China music video! The combination of glowing titles and electronic music sends a chill down my spine and makes me relive all those Saturday nights sat cross legged on the carpet in front of our shiny 22 inch CRT TV.
If anyone is feeling a little lost right now lemme just back up and let you in the door. The story of Stranger Things (Spoiler free) of course is at it’s core a simple one. In a small town in America, during the early 80’s, a tight knit group of friends undergo a tragedy. Will Byers, one quarter of this band of geeks and nerds disappears on his way home from a weekly dungeons and dragons session. His disappearance coincides with the arrival of an odd girl with shaven hair who goes by the name of Eleven or Elle for short. These un-athletic tweens along with a few more of the townsfolk set out to uncover the location of Will and deal with thee strange things that are happening in their town. Ha! see what we did there? Sorry it’s been quite a long time since I’ve done this.
So we have the aesthetic of the show, it’s genre-tastic setting but what no one seems to be discussing currently is the talent on show. All of the younger cast are terrific, many people argue that kids can ruin a show or a movie and some do, some children are just terrible but these kids knocked it out of the park. They were goofy and awkward but they also knew how to handle emotional weight and for me they were the most engrossing part of the series. Yes there are some older, more familiar faces who do a decent job but the younger cast were the heart and soul of this show and deserve all the praise in the world. Now it wasn’t just the kids who shone for me however, being an old man and a lover of detective stories I couldn’t not love Chief Hopper. What’s not to love about a down and out looking to make something right? He’s gone right up into my top five super sleuths of all time after watching this series. Honestly, Hopper is a bad ass in every kind of way.
The one downfall of this show is that at the end of episode eight we had come to the end of the final act. now yes, I have said many times, quite loudly, and repeatedly that not every show needs to be 22-25 episodes long, packed full of pointless filler and one of the best things Netflix does is tell it’s story in just 13 episodes but come on… eight, EIGHT! I need more of this in my life. That being said however I would much rather have a small amount of something incredible than a lot of average story telling. I know that sounds hypocritical but I’m still in the post binge come down so you’ll have to forgive me for being a little all over the place.
If you haven’t seen it yet and want to find out what everyone is talking about then go check it out, if you have an affinity for 80’s sci-fi and fantasy give it a go, if you just like good TV… load up your Netflix.
A solid 5 Demi-Gorgons out of 5