Stranger Things: How the ’80s Supernatural Horror Genre Has Taken Over 2016
A 1980s style horror mixed with a science fiction crime drama has become the newest obsession for Netflix binge watchers. Stranger Things, which premiered on July 15, waxes nostalgic to the cornerstones of ’80s pop culture, including E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Goonies, and The X-Files.
The series follows the lives of citizens in the small town of Hawkins, Ind. in 1983. When a child goes missing after riding his bike home, the town descends into chaos as the mysteries and horrors that had been slyly hidden slowly unravel. The main story thread of the series follows the friendship of three nerdy tweens as they use their scientific talents and sheer gumption to try to solve the mystery of a missing friend. While the show does bring a certain nostalgia where walkie talkies replace cell phones and fashion choices evoke images of Pretty in Pink, the real meat of the story is what lies underneath. Like any good ’80s show, the central story line focuses on issues like broken families, the fear parents face as their children start growing up, and the loss of childhood innocence.
The show’s writers, Matt and Ross Duffer, are children of the 1980s themselves and use that familiarity with the period, and its unique charms and subtle in-jokes, to their advantage. The two pay homage to directors like Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams while also adding their own flair, which at times results in a tone reminiscent of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks by way of Goosebumps. Though this sibling screenwriting duo has captured the hearts of anyone with a Netflix account, this is the first time either have written a television series. Despite their lack of experience within the medium, it is obvious that the Duffer brothers have an immense amount of skill with their craft. While this may be the first time the world has heard of the brothers, this most definitely will not be the last time we hear from them.
Along with the extraordinary writing, the show’s story would be nothing without its remarkable cast. The actors and actresses of the show are mostly unknown, with the exception of famous actress Winona Ryder who acts as an ’80s pop culture reference herself. In spite of a vast majority of the cast being unknown, they manage to entrance the audience with their skills and abilities. It is also worth mentioning that a great number of the cast members are child actors working on their first major project. These young teens, including Finn Wolfhard, (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven, “El”) show a skill that promises lasting careers for them all.
The only criticism the show seems to be receiving is a lack of proper pacing. Within the first four episodes of the eight episode series, the audience encounters very little action. Then all at once there is an explosion of activity in the last four episodes. A lack of balance within the episodes causes the first half and last half to feel like two separate pieces as opposed to one fully paced story.
Due to its high popularity, fantastic story line, and gifted cast, Netflix announced in August that it would be renewing the series for a second season. Season two is set to premiere sometime in 2017 and promises to not only build upon the story lines of season one, but to introduce new characters and narratives as well. If anyone is looking for a series to become obsessed with, don’t let this curiosity door remain closed. Grab some popcorn, log in to your Netflix, and bunker down to ride the roller coaster that is Stranger Things.