Netflix’s latest original series Stranger Things literally drips 80’s nostalgia. Creators The Duffer Brothers affectionately coat every aspect of the show with homages to the period. Set in 1980s Indiana, the story possesses shades of the child-like wonder and enchantment of Steven Spielberg’s E.T (1982). However, it also features the creepiness and young characters one finds in the wave of Stephen King adaptations from that time (Christine, Silver Bullet, Stand by Me). The show’s synth score brings to mind eighties’ auteur John Carpenter (a poster for The Thing is seen in the background at one point). Also, the period’s technology – ham-radios, rotary phones and BMX’s – is integral to Stranger Things’ plot.
The show revolves around the two interlocking stories. After spending the day with his friends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Glenn Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughin), young boy Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears after being chased by a mysterious monster. His divorced mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), with the help of alcoholic, disillusioned police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour, not playing a total jerk for once), attempts to find him. Meanwhile, Will’s friends, conducting their own investigation into the disappearance, stumble upon a mysterious young girl (Millie Bobby Brown), branded with the number eleven, who has escaped a shady government facility.
From the two episodes I’ve seen, Stranger Things succeeds in entertaining the viewer by fully embracing its influences. It’s certainly derivative and seems to exist solely as a throwback to a different time in film. However, as a cinefile, it’s fun to spot the references to 80’s culture and The Duffer Brothers seem to understand what made movies like E.T and Stand by Me classics, harnessing these elements into their own show. Stranger Things, like these older films, features extremely likable characters (the kids, thankfully, are less annoying than typical movie children), witty banter between both the child characters and Joyce and Jim, as well some nicely tense set-pieces. Also, its central mystery, despite various elements being plucked from previous movies, is intriguing and will have viewers curious to see where the season will go over its eight episode run.