“Stranger Things” is the second television show written by the Duffer Brothers, the first being last year’s “Wayward Pines”. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
An homage to 80s culture casting five young actors under the age of 15, “Stranger Things” stands out as one of Netflix’s boldest ventures. The young group of friends feels extremely natural to the viewer. As outcasts that make up the entire AV club at their middle school, the group ride bikes to school together, play DND, and stand by one another through the tough perils of middle school. Mike Wheeler, played by 13 year old Finn Wolfhard, leads his friends in their DND campaign the night their friend Will Byers goes missing. What follows is a gripping story of Winona Ryder, who plays Will’s mom Joyce, struggling to search for answers with the stressed out Hopper, Hawkins’ police chief.
Winona Ryder continues her triumphant return to the screen in this series. An anemic mother of two, Joyce (Ryder) struggles to raise her two boys in a broken family. Her ex-husband seems as though he could not care less about his missing son. Hopper, the Hawkins police chief, who is dealing with his own personal issues, impatiently deals with Joyce. The range of emotions Ryder is able to convey solidifies this as one of the most powerful performances of her career. Viewers immediately feel sympathetic for Joyce’s situation; her kind, promising, intelligent young boy mysteriously disappearing on her.
Taking place in the fictional small town of Hawkins, Indiana, “Stranger Things” effectively captures the ambience of Midwestern America in the 1980s. Production quality is apparent and helps to make the fictional town feel realistic and authentic. Houses, cars, wardrobes, and especially the Hawkins schools feel as natural as the characters themselves. Brown corduroy jackets, old Chevy Blazers, and outdated bicycle headlights are just a few examples that help the viewer to get immersed in the time period. From the beginning, the viewer feels like they are watching a classic Steven Spielberg film, or an adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Many have tried and failed to capture the essence of these two legends of storytelling, but the Duffer brothers succeed while maintaining originality.
The atmosphere of the show is complimented by the soundtrack composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the band Survive. Synthesizers are the primary instrument utilized, resulting in nostalgic, creepy, and riveting tracks that pull the viewer into the scene. Some classic hits from the time period are also worked in intelligently. “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane sticks out immediately in a pivotal diner scene. Often times, the only song that will stick in viewers’ heads is the theme song, but the “Stranger Things” soundtrack is composed so that every song is memorable.
With an intriguing storyline and a masterful soundtrack to match, five acting prodigies, along with the rest of the cast, shine through in the science fiction-horror that is an instant classic. If you have been looking for a new show to binge watch, look no further. “Stranger Things” will make you think, laugh, scream, and maybe even cry. Fortunately, unlike the classic “Freaks and Geeks”, Netflix has signed on for a second season.