Stranger Things – Spoiler Free Review

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Not bad, eh? Visit http://makeitstranger.com to create your own Stranger Things title.

Netflix’s on fire, your defense is terrified! 

..Anyone..?.. Guys..?

Sorry, I’ll see myself out.

OK, so that pun-cum-nod-to-Will-Grigg was pretty abysmal, but I do have a point.

Netflix are once again on fire with their latest original series Stranger Thingsand when watching the show I genuinely was terrified as this wonderful tale unfolded. So let’s get into it.

What’s all the hype about?

Set in a small Indiana town called Hawkins in 1983, 12-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears mysteriously when cycling home one night. His mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), frantically attempts to find him, alongside police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Will’s friends: Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin).

As the boys set out to find their lost friend, they discover Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown); an almost mute and mysterious looking girl with a shaved head and telekinetic powers. She’s hiding answers that the boys need, while a shady government agency is trying to cover it all up.

The way in which all the separate investigations into the truth and whereabouts of Will come together is fascinating and the character development we see, especially in Hopper, makes for captivating viewing.

There is so much to love about this show; from the 80s nostalgic throwbacks and pop culture references of the time, to the homages and tributes to the film making of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ridley Scott to name a few.

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Stranger Things paid homage to George Lucas’ Star Wars with this promotional poster. Image credit: Netflix.

Finally, some strong child acting!

For Stranger Things to work, it is of paramount importance that strong child acting is required, and they duly deliver. Our three amigos (plus Eleven) and their mission to save their bud is full of genuine comedic moments (mainly coming from Dustin) and most importantly, a sense of realism.

Their dialogue and interactions do sound like the types of conversations 12-year-old boys have; they cuss and argue sometimes. One of our biggest criticisms of films here at Film Night is the poor standard of child acting: where it is obvious that the directors have not put enough work in with the child actors, but the Duffer brothers have really nailed it here. Hollywood, please take note.

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The performances from Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard & Millie Bobby Brown were fantastic. Image credit: hellogiggles.com.

Another huge positive for me is the soundtrack. The men behind it (Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein from ‘S U R V I V E’) absolutely nail the ’80s-yet-futuristic’ sound. You’re instantly hooked from the opening credits song, it draws you in.

I commented in the David Brent podcast how the soundtrack reminded me a lot of something Boards of Canada would create; sounds from the future that make you think about space and life and time. Oh, and it used lot of synths too, which is always pleasing.

We do have some issues, though…

Not every programme can be perfect, though, and there are a few problems I need to address.

The homages to films did (on some occasions) seem a lot more like plain plagiarism!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a massive reference point throughout the series; from Eleven disguising in a dress and wig, to the kids using bikes as their main method of transport. However, the biggest E.T. rip off comes in episode 7 (but I won’t spoil that for you).

Another annoying recurrence was having nosebleeds as a consequence of using telekinetic powers. This is such an old cliche and has been used numerous times before. From Greg Grunberg in Heroes, to Jessica Alba in Fantastic Fouryou just cannot overexert yourself telekinetically without having a nose bleed, obvs.

However, the example which shocked me the most was the use of the ‘black room’ which was remarkably similar to Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film Under the Skin. While it looks great, the similarities are ridiculous and have clearly been copied.

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Stills taken from Under the Skin (left) and Stranger Things (right). Spot the difference..? Image credit: The Guardian.

For me, the originality of Stranger Things is its USP, so when they nab ideas as blatantly as this, then it loses this original feel that had me interested in the first place.

Although the acting throughout this series was strong, there were instances which I found to be rather tedious: Winona Ryder was just TOO hysterically upset throughout.

OK, we get it, Joyce; you must be upset because your son is missing, but constantly being on edge and anxious just did not make sense to me.

So, when’s Season 2 out?

Although a second season is still to be confirmed, it seems highly likely that we can expect a lot more from this show. It has many questions that require answers and so much scope for new material.

Overall, Stranger Things was a highly enjoyable ride. It certainly won’t be winning any awards for its use of CGI, but they have uncovered some real stars of the future in Millie Bobby Brown and Gaten Matarazzo.

So, if you haven’t already, get onto this highly bingeable show and let us here at Film Night know whether you agree or disagree with our diagnosis.

Oh, and one final thing, #JusticeForBarb.

 

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