Sci-fi peculiarities strike in Spielberg-esque series

Jamie Glenn

A monstrous being fleshed within the walls is terrorizing the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. A group of friends, a worried and determined mother and a distracted police chief are brought together to investigate the disappearance of a local boy while trying to distinguish the turmoil taking place in an external world victimizing their town.

re-strangerthingsStory: The Netflix original series “Stranger Things” is a one season series that takes viewers back to 1983 in the sleepy town of Hawkins where an unidentified creature is on the loose, terrifying whatever crosses its path. A young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing after a night of playing board games with his friends. The police drag their feet on finding Will, causing the boys to take action of their own. While searching for Will, the boys find Eleven, a young girl of few words who they welcome to their group.

Eleven, having undergone traumatic testing in an unregulated laboratory, is ill-exposed to society and holds suspicious powers. After escaping from the lab and befriending the boys, she uses her powers to help them find their missing friend, while they keep her hidden from the lab staff hunting her.

Hawkins acts as the threshold between the internal and external world that cages the flesh-hungry monster that takes will hostage and hunts the townspeople. Viewers can expect an intense, mind twisting story told in just eight episodes.

Style: Those well-versed in the 1980s writing and cinematic devices of author Stephen King or director Steven Spielberg will find a number of connections between the cinematic styles in “Stranger Things” and those used in “E.T.,”  “Stand by Me,” “The Goonies” and “Carrie.” Created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer who wrote films like “Wayward Pines” and “Hidden,” the brothers borrow many ’80s-esque techniques for “Stranger Things” like distinct camera placement that lets viewers travel through objects.

A sense of mystery is felt by the music and sound effects carried throughout the series. Though the lighting and imagery adds a unique element throughout, the scenes give a tone of slow-moving momentum that doesn’t quite mirror the fast-moving character progression.

Child interactions so often feel forced when they are being written by adults. Much of the plot progression is dependent on the evolution of the friendship these kids have built, but the dialogue doesn’t at all feel forced.

The dialogue in “Stranger Things” sounds very genuine and real. The interactions between friends isn’t pushed too far and offers much comedic relief in a slight and unburdened way.

Characters: The most evolved character would be the head-turning, government suspicious Police Chief Jim Hopper played by David Harbour. One of the most recognized names among the cast list is Winona Ryder of “Beetlejuice,” who offered a wonderful performance of a mom who derails while looking for her son Will.

Ryder comes in second to the character of Eleven played by Millie Bobby Brown whose precise acting shows true commitment and emotion within her character, causing viewers to become emotionally invested in her backstory, flashbacks and her overall story. This effort helped the overall plot of the season progress with a steady momentum.

Verdict: While watching, I felt a sense of urgency lingering throughout the 8-episode span. This emotional tone allows audiences to revisit a number of nostalgic movies and TV shows from earlier years. This most likely is the Netflix generation’s first exposure to these very rustic ’80s mystery style techniques of storytelling.

Older audiences who can pull similarities from films like “E.T.” and “Carrie” may feel that the elements borrowed in “Stranger Things” were too closely connected to films of their generation. It is clear that creators admire King and Spielberg, but many might ask are they bringing anything new to the genre? Yes, but viewers really have to look beyond the similarities.
The Duffer brothers set out to create a suspenseful science fiction mystery that will have viewers wanting to tie together loose plot points created within this world of mystery which are for the most part pieced together while still leaving viewers waiting and wondering what is to come in season two of the series which will return in 2017.