The Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things ★★★★★
‘It will take more sons. More daughters. I want to save them. I want to save your son.’
BOOT THE reboots. The Duffer Brothers have effortlessly created a programme that perfectly frames a golden era of television and music, evoking senses of wonder and nostalgia in every viewer.
Described as a love letter to beloved sci-fi’s such as ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stranger Things is a new show that provides a refreshing break from the stream of modern reboots of past classics that we have so often seen in recent times. It is a show that sends us back to a time of 80s childhood – nostalgic for some viewers and eye opening for others. From the opening credits to the phenomenal soundtrack, this show is an opportunity for any person not lucky enough to have experienced the 80s to get a taste for it.
Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, we are introduced to four inquisitive (nerdy) boys and instantly the adult viewer is thrown back into their past. The boys’ prevailing, innocent imagination unintentionally merges into reality as one of them, 12 year old Will, on his way home from a marathon board game of Dungeons and Dragons, takes a detour past a government lab, is chased by a monstrous silhouette and disappears.
The scene is set in the first 8 minutes of this hit-show. His mother (Winona Ryder) refuses to believe that all is as it seems and is willfully haunted by Will. His friends embark on their own investigation, eventually running into yet another misfit, the supernatural Eleven (Millie Brown) who has escaped from the mysterious lab. The dishevelled but brilliant chief of police, Hopper (David Harbour), conducts his own official (leading to unofficial) investigation, haunted but driven by his past to find Will and reunite him with his family and friends. All the while, a monster stalks the woods, observing, stealing and feasting on Hawkins’ residents.
A simple storyline on the surface is entirely satisfying as the series progresses. The Duffer Brothers check every single box when creating a television show that catches a viewer, hook, line and sinker. It contains the perfect balance of humour, melancholy and outright terror, all combining to include the viewer in solving the puzzle of the show.
Winona Ryder makes a terrific return to the screen as the concerned yet fortuitous mother, determined to recover her son. Her natural progression through the emotions of a mother who has lost her child are astoundingly believable, making it impossible to not share in the grief she feels.
Michael Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) leads the group of 12 year olds in their search for their friend. The groups endearing approach to the investigation is what drives the nostalgia on screen, encouraging the viewers of the 80s to remember their childhood of riding around on choppers chasing make-belief investigations – only this time, the investigation is very real. Eleven (Millie Brown) delivers a performance as powerful as her telekinetic abilities, conveying such complex and intense emotions whilst scarcely speaking.
The show is made ever more nostalgic through the Duffer Brother’s evident and genuine longiness to credit their inspirations for their show. Recurring references to Stephen King and Steven Spielberg’s ET, Indiana Jones, and even Jaws are a constant reminder of the tone and feel that the Duffer Brothers seek to instill. It is a family-friendly, emotional television series that maintains a prolonged sense of suspense through a tightly written script and powerful scenes eventually leaving you fighting to hold back the tears.
Finally, from Moby to Joy Division, New Order to Toto, The Clash to Foreigner, Stranger Things is a show that is hinged on the incredible soundtrack. The Austin synth band S U R V I V E developed the creepy yet nostalgic score that has grabbed global attention, and the music that permeates throughout the show is being held as some of the best music in television to emerge since Twin Peaks.
Stranger Things is a triumphant success, putting on screen an original show that perfectly captures the retro feel of the eighties family-sci-fi and horror genre which has been lost somewhat in contemporary television and film. Stranger Things absorbs you and doesn’t let you out until all eight episodes of the season are watched. It has everything a television show should have and has set a precedent for all future reboots and throwbacks – Twin Peaks remake, take note.
The Duffer Brothers have truly established themselves, their show and their cast. We can’t wait for season 2.