A mysterious government lab, pulsing hazy lights, blaring alarms, and an eerie growl all make the first 30 seconds of “Stranger Things” spine tingling. Netflix’s new original series instantly cements itself as an online classic following its mid-summer release. It’s no strange thing, either. The show, which stars award-winning actress Winona Ryder, manages to capture the classic 80s supernatural tropes and essence that once dominated popular culture.
“Stranger Things” takes place in a small Indiana town that has a generically familiar feel. A persistent mother named Joyce, played by Ryder, leads a thrilling search for her missing son, Will. This search leads to a series of revelations about a secretive government lab and strange events that sweep through the town. These become more complex as the plot unfolds.
With subtle events and scenes effortlessly building on one another, “Stranger Things” is stupendously written and leaves the audience on the edge of their seat, anticipating what comes next. Although the show is composed of eight episodes, each around an hour long, it flows together like one long movie — making it perfect for binge watching.
Ryder delivers a stunning performance with scenes and lines filled with raw emotion. However, despite her strong work, it is the child actors who really shine. Gaten Matarazzo (who has appeared on “The Blacklist” and who was part of “Les Miserables” on Broadway) plays Dustin, one of the most memorable characters. With excellent quotes, a lovable attitude, and the right mix of comic relief, Dustin is the glue that holds the other kids in the show together.
Millie Bobby Brown also delivers a stellar performance as Eleven, the strange, mysterious and almost mute girl that Mike, Lucas, and Dustin find wandering through the forest. Even with her limited amount of lines, Brown still manages to portray her thoughts and emotions. Finn Wolfhard (Mike) and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) are both fantastic; they do an excellent job highlighting the subtle (and at other times blatantly obvious) interpersonal conflicts between the kids. Noah Schnapp still shines despite his character being missing for the majority of the series. His brief appearances complement Ryder’s maternal role. The child actors deliver a very surprising level of quality, on par with or better than the adult actors.
The soundtrack and score of “Stranger Things” amplifies its spooky and nostalgic feel. The soundtrack only features time appropriate songs with tracks by Joy Division, Jefferson Airplane, Toto, David Bowie, and The Clash — “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is frequently used. The score is chilling; the repeating synths give “Stranger Things” a retro-80s feel and fit in perfectly for the series.
“Stranger Things” is by no means perfect, slight plot holes emerge as the writing degrades, but it kept me glued to the couch for eight hours straight. It covers almost every trope imaginable and almost fetishizes the supernatural flicks of the 80s. Even though I didn’t live through the 80s, it captured exactly what I expected them to be like. “Stranger Things” is set up for a sequel and hopefully we can expect new episodes next year.