Stranger Things, Part 1

20 Jul

My nostalgia typically runs through the 1970s. That was my first decade of life (born in 1968). It included KISS, Star Wars, comics, Legos, elementary school, Saturday morning cartoons, and many more discoveries. The 1980s was the decade I came of age: Middle school, high school, music, girls, movies, graduation in 1987. Not sure why, but I tend to overlook the 1980s in my trips down nostalgia lane. Not that I didn’t have a great time in that decade. I did. I had a pretty great time during those years. But I rarely return to them. 

So it came as an interesting curiosity when I saw the trailer to Stranger Things, the 8-episode TV series from Netflix. Perhaps I had been away from the 80s for so long, mentally, that everything in this trailer piqued my interest. To be honest, I got pretty darn excited about seeing the show. The trailer itself seemed to check off just about every 80s visual reference you could imagine. Camera moving across backyard a la ET? Check. Flashlight emerging from elevator, also reminiscent of ET? Check. Boys on bikes? Check. Boys finding an “ET” and bringing her home? Check. Wait a second. Are all these images from ET? No, but Stranger Things is a love letter to Steven Spielberg’s films and Stephen King’s books. It’s even got “Stephen King” font on the title card! Oh, and John Carpenter’s film scores.

I’m up through Episode 5 of the show, and boy am I digging this series. The creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, lather on so much 80s goodness in just about every shot and line of script that it’ll make you wonder if Netflix didn’t just discover some long-lost TV show from 1983. Heck, if you were to play a drinking game where you verbally identify a shot or a line of dialogue from an 80s movie, you’d be smashed halfway through the first episode. But all of this 80s love is not played ironically. This is real, genuine love of the era and its movies.

The basic plot is revealed in the trailer. Will, one of a quartet of young nerdlings, disappears after he rides home at night after a terrific game of Dungeons and Dragons. Winona Ryder is his single mom who was working. His older brother, Jonathan, is a loner who likes to take pictures with his camera and worked an extra shift the previous night. Quickly they realize Will is missing and things get started.

The leader of the young nerds, Mike, convinces his pals that they can find Will whereas the cops and adults cannot. In their nighttime hunt, they discover a girl. She won’t say anything. Her shaved head makes her look odd as does the tattoo of “011” on her forearm. They take her back to Mike’s house and hide her in the basement. Quickly, they figure out she has some special powers. She also knows where Will is: “Hiding.”

Meanwhile, Mike’s sister, Nancy, is infatuated with a boy, Steve, sort of a bad boy. He’s slept around but she’s a bookworm. Her friend, Barb, warns Nancy that Steve’s no good, but Nancy only has googly eyes for the handsome lad. Barb and Nancy go to a party at Steve’s house while his parents are away. Nancy makes some questionable choices and Barb bides her time outside on the diving board. Until something snatches her. 

Sheriff Jim Hopper is a divorcee who self medicates. In typical fashion in a show like this, initially he’s reluctant to listen to the wailings of Will’s mom, chalking up her words to a frantic mother. But soon, however, he changes his mind.

Needless to say, all of these plot threads start to converge around episode 4. And I’ll freely admit that I’m in the dark on where this show is going. I’ve got a general idea, but I’m willing to just let the show take me where it will.

Oh, and Matthew Modine is now playing the Peter Coyote role. Bonus points if you get the reference.

I’m enjoying the heck out of this show. Ryder is great as the crazy-with-worry mother. I remember thinking during the first episode “How old must I be if Winona Ryder is playing the mom?” Old enough. All the cast are doing great. The youngsters are straight out of a Goonies casting call, but I’m fine with that. Absolutely love the music! Pure early 80s synth moody soundtrack.

I’m definitely looking forward to finishing this series. It’s a television highlight of the summer.

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