Stranger Things: Review
Even though technically Stranger Things is not a film, the creators are on the record saying they see the series as an 8 hour movie so I’m going to let that justify me writing this.
A lot of people are pointing out how movies like E.T. and Poltergeist are clearly inspirations for this NETFLIX original series, but I wanted to throw a couple others in there as well: Super 8 (also a movie Steven Spielberg was involved with), and even more so, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which would have been released about 1 year prior to the events in Stranger Things). Maybe it’s the nostalgia (which both of those have plenty of for me), but I see more hints of Halloween III than anything else, even E.T.
Overall, this is one of the best Netflix original series available, right up there with Daredevil (which for anyone that knows me, that’s very high praise). The Duffer Brothers Matt and Ross have used tones and themes from some of the best movies from the 80’s era (mainly the two Steve’s; Spielberg and King), but were still able to make something unique and all their own.
One of the things I like most about the series is the detailed world they create that brings you right into the time period. There is so much attention to detail put in by the set designers. From the the town signs, the rotary phones, the games and posters in Mikes basement, and even the opening credits. If we didn’t recognize some of the actors in the series, they could have tried to fool us into thinking it was in fact filmed in the 80’s. (I say “80’s” and not “November of 1983” since Corey Harts Sunglasses At Night came out in 1984, but that’s just being nit picky, who really cares).
Speaking of which, the biggest star of the series could be the soundtrack. The song choices fit beautifully, especially in the first half of the series. Their strategic use of music is not only a huge reason for the strong 80s vibe they’ve created, it’s also used nicely to strengthen a scene (David Bowie’s “Heroes” anyone?). The 80’s style techno score heard over much of the suspenseful scenes is another factor that really drags a viewer into the time period.
The one hole I can poke into the series is some of the acting at times. It’s the only thing I can think of that was anything less than excellent, and the only thing that could pull me a little away from the world. The kids are all great, especially for child actors. I guess it’s more just about Winona Ryder for me. At times she was wonderful, probably her best work since (ironically) the 80’s. At other times I’d say her performance a bit over the top? Maybe a little single noted? Some reviewers might be saying the opposite, this is just my opinion, but there were times I would think “this is Winona playing a part” which for me, takes me out of the story and can be a distraction.
Having said that, she’s FAR from poor, but when compared to the superb work from others in the series like David Harbour as Jim Hopper, Natalie Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, and my personal favorite Joe Keery as Steve Harrington (I predict stardom for this guy, reminds me of Johnny Depp’s first major role in Nightmare on Elm Street), I can’t help but knock her down a smidge, comparatively.
I’m going to stay away from talking spoilers. The mystery and problem solving throughout the series is really a driving force behind why it’s so successful. It’s what makes this such an enjoyable, easy and quick binge watch. I tackled all 8 chapters in a couple nights, it felt like a great book I just couldn’t put down.
The level of quality content that Netflix has been able to put out recently is impressive. They’re providing cinematic level “TV” for $8.99 / month. As if we needed more evidence to this fact, but cable / Satellite TV as we know it is truly changing.
Stranger Things: Review reviewed by Myles Calvert on August 1, 2016 rated 4.4 of 5