This week, I finally got around to Stranger Things, an eight-episode series on Netflix, and I have to say, it's really not horror. It's full to the brim with horror tropes, but it's more like they're there for fun.
Stranger Things is about the disappearance of a boy named Will Byers in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana back in 1983. Or more accurately, it's about Will's mother and brother, the local sheriff, and Will's best friends Mike, Lucas and Dustin, doing anything and everything they can to find Will. While on their mission, the three boys stumble upon a quiet, mysterious girl called Eleven with very short hair and superpowers reminiscent of a character in a Stephen King novel. Eleven has apparently escaped from the local secret government lab, because all small American towns in horror movies feature secret government labs.
|Lucas, Dustin, Mike and Eleven|
In fact, I ended up liking all of the young actors: Mike (Finn Wolfhard) the leader, the abrasive but courageous Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) who stole the show -- this kid kept making me laugh out loud. I also liked Mike's teenage sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and her romantic triangle storyline with Will's brother Jonathan and an absurdly coiffed Tom-Cruise-like idiot named Steve. It could have gotten ridiculous, but instead culminated in an almost comic, frantic and exciting scene in the utterly destroyed Byers house.
But the best member of the young cast was by far and away Millie Bobby Brown (great name) as Eleven. She had a ton of story to carry pretty much by herself, and she was consistently endearing as well as terrific at projecting her character's "otherness." She made me want to beat up anyone who had ever used and abused Eleven, which I'm pretty sure was the point.
Not that there weren't adults in the story. I very much liked David Harbour as Sheriff Hopper, whose commitment to finding Will was touching and quite believable, and Winona Ryder as Joyce, Will's mother, who spent most of her screen time melting down while somehow remaining sympathetic. I particularly loved the way she went nuts with the Christmas lights and the alphabet painted on the wall.
I also enjoyed the Dungeons and Dragons, the Star Wars movie references, the eighties hair, the scenes in the murky woods at night, and absolutely everything about the "Upside-Down" (I'm trying not spoil you guys). The "alternative" sets were terrifically creepy. Well done. Just about the only thing I didn't care for was Matthew Modine as Dr. Brenner. Nothing about his character did anything for me. Did I miss something?
Stranger Things was fun to watch, and I recommend it. It wasn't life-changing or anything, and I didn't cry in a specific place where I probably should have, but I got through the series in three days and enjoyed it more with each episode. I hope it's renewed, which it probably will be, because I want more. The creative duo behind this series, the Duffer Brothers, also worked on Wayward Pines. Much better this time, guys.
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.