By Luke Wathen
Over the past few years, Netflix has cemented a name for itself with a plethora of original content. From comedies such as “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “BoJack Horseman” to the adrenaline-fueled drama “Narcos,” it seems that Netflix can do no wrong with their original programming.
Keeping with this proud tradition is “Stranger Things,” a sci-fi series that is as much a love letter to 80s pop culture as it is a suspenseful drama. The show takes place in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana where the disappearance of a young boy named Will (Noah Schnapp) sends the town into total disarray. As Will’s friends, family and townsfolk struggle to find him, a supernatural presence lurks in the shadows and a sinister government agency tries to keep the whole ordeal under wraps.
Most of the cast are newer actors with the exception of Winona Ryder, who gives a sublime performance as Will’s grief-stricken mother. The other actors in the show hopefully will not be doomed to obscurity much longer as their performances are as laudable as that of Ryder. Throughout the eight episodes of the first season, I could not pinpoint a single performance that I did not like.
Though the plot is engaging and the characters are relatable, the show’s real strength lies in its ability to recreate the beloved decade of the 1980s. While “Stranger Things” is by no means the first series to successfully recreate the look and feel of a past era (“That ’70s Show” immediately comes to mind), it has quite possibly done the best job of it.
From the synthesizer-heavy opening complete with near-identical title font from the 1983 movie “The Dead Zone,” episode titles that would sit right at home in a Stephen King novel and a group of adventurous kids that bring back fond memories of “The Goonies” and “E.T.,” the show captures the look and feel of 1980s film and television on multiple levels.
Nowhere is this more perfectly encapsulated than in the show’s soundtracks. Anyone who was alive during the 80s or is simply a fan of the music of the era will immediately recognize familiar tracks from The Clash, Toto and Modern English as well as many others.
I could go on for days about how well the show embodies the look and feel of the 1980s, but it is worth noting that despite all of this nostalgia, the decade is but a backdrop to the main plot. What could have easily been a barrage of dated pop culture references and obligatory “Remember this?” moments is instead a suspense-driven drama that uses the familiar imagery of a past decade to identify with a sci-fi heavy plot.
If you have not seen “Stranger Things” yet, I cannot recommend it enough. Whether you are a fan of sci-fi, dramas, 1980s pop culture or just enjoy being entertained, this series will resonate with you on some level.