With the seemingly never-ending list of films and TV series available to stream instantly online, it's not hard to find your new Game of Thrones or Orange Is the New Black. But, in this instance, the creators over at Netflix have truly outdone themselves with the new horror drama that everyone is talking about: Stranger Things.
Stranger Things is essentially a Stephen-King-style greatest hits compilation of monsters, superpowers, nostalgic '80s horror, and the kind of spooky conspiracy theories that surround Area 51. All the right ingredients are there: a neurotic seemingly-crazy mother frantically searching for her missing child, a group of faithful outcast friends on bikes searching for the gate to a mythical parallel universe and the monster within, a strange otherworldly girl with superpowers who materialises from thin air, and a dodgy top secret government research facility headed up by a tall whitehaired man who gives just about everyone 'the creeps'.
With elements of Stand by Me, Alien, and E.T., and even nods to The Shining and Carrie, this mini '80s sci-fi horror revival is so reminiscent of King and Spielberg that they probably have grounds to sue. But, somehow, amidst the crackling electrics and monstrous growls, we manage to forgive the creators of Stranger Things for this minor transgression because this eight-part wonder series is not only enjoyable, gripping, and watchable but it is late-night hide-under-the-covers binge-watchable.
Starring Winona Ryder in her long-awaited comeback as Joyce Byers, Millie Bobby Brown, a revelation, as the mysterious telekinetic Eleven, David Harbour as exasperated sceptic turned all-round-good-guy and hero Chief Hopper, the fantastic Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin, and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas, the Stranger Things diverse cast provide an array of subplots to accompany the eerie and sinister disappearance of Joyce's beloved youngest son, Will Byers.
As the series progresses and the evil force gripping the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, gets stronger, more characters are reeled in by its claws as the significance of Eleven's Papa's cruel experiments into other worlds becomes apparent. Like many sci-fi, fantasy and horror creations, Stranger Things does have its fair share of the kind of baby-extra-terrestrial-bursting-through-the-stomach-in-Alien moments that make us cringe and sometimes even chuckle. While these flaws in plot and production seem to partially let the series down, particularly in the dramatic opening and closing episodes, these exaggerated and foolish moments in hindsight seem quite appropriate considering that we are watching supernatural events through authentic jam-jar-thick '80s lenses. And what would the glorious sci-fi and horror of the '80s be without bad special effects and exaggerated gore and goo?
Following a climatic but still enigmatic and gripping conclusion, Stranger Things fans are rejoicing in the knowledge that Netflix have commissioned a second season which promises to tie up the loose ends of Will's unearthly illness, Eleven's true identity and her connection to the Slender-Man-looking monster that plagues the series' characters, and the specifics of Barb's fate. As we wait for season two, it's safe to say that we'll be binge-watching and re-watching this nostalgic supernatural delight until our bedroom lights start to flicker and the chains on our doors are unlocked by a ghostly invisible entity.