STRANGER THINGS ALREADY BECOMING A CULT CLASSIC
While it was just released in mid-July of this year, Stranger Things has already attained cult-like status with millions of viewers. This isn’t by accident. Not only does the series convey unimaginable horror, but is also rife with emotion, outstanding characters and cast members, a superb plot, and a quality that echoes original 80s films like Alien, E.T., The Thing, and Altered States.
When it comes to category, Stranger Things cannot be pinned down. It is an electrifying overlap of psychological horror, supernatural elements, throwback science-fiction, and nostalgic 1980s appeal. To the inexperienced viewer, this might sound chaotic, but the show masterfully works its themes and genres into a story of breath-catching suspense. Directed by Matt and Ross Duffer and produced by Shawn Levy, Stranger Things orbits the disappearance of twelve-year-old Will Byers from his rural hometown of Hawkins, Indiana. His mother, Joyce Byer (Winona Ryder), is terrified and perplexed. She and the town sheriff (John Harbour), launch a full-blown search for the missing boy, which leads to both horrifying consequences and wondrous phenomena.
Fans of the 1980s classic, Stand By Me, will especially appreciate the dynamic between Will Byer’s best friends, who begin an investigation parallel to the adults. Mike, Lucas, and Dustin are nerdy, raw, hilarious and incredibly real, with infinite amounts of loyalty to one another. On one hand, they are the epitome of the ‘proverbial geeks playing Dungeons and Dragons in a basement for twelve hours. Literally. But on the other, they call each other out when necessary, skewer one another with affectionate teasing and profanity, could one-up a NASCAR driver with their biking skills, and would lay down their lives for each other in an instant.
The bond that unfolds between the boys and a disturbed, telekinetic girl is equally captivating. Millie Bobby Brown is eerily phenomenal in her breakout role as Eleven, or El, as the boys call her later on. She has few lines, but her aura is sad and omniscient in a stunningly adult manner. She conveys through facial expression and presence what few professional actors can. As she struggles to maintain control over her powers in the aftermath of a traumatic past, she discovers ways to communicate with the missing. And the missing find ways to communicate with those who are still safe. Young Will Byers begins to speak through simple electricity, using walkie-talkies and Christmas lights to send messages and warnings alike.
There may be one distinct monster in the Stranger Things universe, but monsters of many kinds appear throughout the series’ eight episodes. The show writers want viewers to understand the nuances of what ‘monster’ really means. It can be a gruesome creature eating carnage in the woods, seemingly untouchable high schoolers at the popular table, biological warfare driven by humans- which was especially relevant in the Cold War-era setting-or what exists in the shadows and our own minds, and the doubt that forever eats at them.
Despite its quirks and horrors, Stranger Things is deeply relatable. It is about much more than catastrophe, delving bravely into human behavior and relationships under such pressure. The episodes ache with a certain kind of longing, as each character is, at some point or another, confronted with overwhelming loss. Yet the show stays with its audience, because it is really about imperfect redemption, family, tremendous courage, geeks saving each other’s lives and, ultimately, love.
Whether or not Stranger Things pursues another season, it lives on. Viewers will continue to wish that they, too, could coast along on a bicycle after dusk with wistful bursts of 80s synth, comic book under one arm and walkie-talkie under the other, off to look for monsters.