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Exclusive Review: Stranger Things (2016)

Even the poster gives you the 80s feels!

Many of us have grown tired of clichéd movies. The majority of ideas revolving around television and film tend to be sequels or re-makes—and we hate it. What many of us long for are original ideas. Was looking for it in Stranger Things too much to ask for?

Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, Stranger Things follows the mysterious disappearance of 12-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) in a small Indiana town of 1983.  This sends Will’s mother, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), along with his older brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), into a frantic search against odds and time for his safe return. Joining the investigation are Will’s clique of nerdy, (but loveable) misfits Mike, Dustin, and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin) and suspicious Chief Hopper (David Harbour). But in this little town of Indiana, an occurrence such as this can only lead to unraveled secrets, mysteries, experiments, the supernatural, and a peculiar little girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Doesn’t get much stranger than that.

“Friends don’t lie.”

The Duffer Brothers intended Stranger Things as homage to the 80s—and they succeeded in eliciting a nostalgic feel. From the music and the design to overall lifestyle and atmosphere, the Duffers nailed it. You see kids running—err, biking around with not a care in the world, the typical 80s get-up, the lack of technology, etc. But what’s especially fun about this Netflix series is the numerous references they make to pop culture of the 70s and the 80s, such as the work of Steven Spielberg, (especially E.T.), Stephen King, Star Wars, The Evil Dead, Alien, The Goonies, etc. Some have argued that this is  lazy writing–that the Duffer brothers have simply borrowed ideas. Although this may be true to an extent, I’ll talk about that a bit later in the review…

Nothing like a game of Dungeons and Dragons 😉

Another positive aspect of Stranger Things is the plot—namely its pace. I normally cannot binge-watch anything at all. I often find myself making up excuses to hit the pause button just so I could go twinkle-toe around the house. If you couldn’t understand the hint, allow me to rephrase what I’m trying to say: I cannot stay in one spot for so long. And this is especially a struggle when trying to force myself to watch a film. But with Stranger Things, it was different. The focus of the series remained intact while continuing to be intriguing… charismatic, per say. It constantly came up with something to retain its audiences’ attention. No unnecessary subplots or drama. Because of this, I literally could not stop watching until I finished the series. I usually can’t even finish a 2-hour film before wondering when it’ll be over, but here I was completely immersed for a whole 8 HOURS.

“You shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to.”

You’ll especially love Dustin! (middle) 😀

Now, let’s talk about the cast. Exhilarating to see Winona Ryder again. Despite a long time of not seeing her, she hasn’t lost her touch and is even more amazing than before. Some have complained about her ‘overacting’, but if you look at it from her character’s perspective: a single, worried mother with a history of anxiety and currently working her ass off to help support her children, then it’s realistic.  Definitely hope to see her more often now! As for the rest of the cast, they were all great—especially Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, and Brown. It is because of the young artists’ performances that we are refreshed to see a plot revolving around kids, (today those types of stories are usually dull-to-the-death.)

Another positive aspect of the short series is dodging common pitfalls usually incorporated into horrors—namely the clichéd actions of stupid characters. Luckily for us, instead of running towards the sign marked ‘death,’ the character cleverly runs the other ways and swipes a shot gun along the way. In other words, the characters are smart; they react how we would. Admittedly, there are stupid actions, (as with nearly any movie), but the series is free of stupid characters/mistakes that are present in nearly every horror movie.

“Maybe I am a mess. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m out of my mind! But, God help me, I will keep these lights up until the day I die if I think there’s a chance that Will’s still out there!”

Glowing lights 0_____0 Yay or nay?

A quick point to mention are the plot-holes in the series. I was left with many questions upon finishing the eight-chapter series. I couldn’t help but wonder, would a possible season two help wrap loose threads, or were there too many plot-holes? Some of them made the series seem a bit unrealistic. But somehow, (miraculously), I was able to cast them aside and enjoy the overall presentation.

Lastly: clichés.  Cliches are often frowned upon, especially in today’s Hollywood where ideas have been recycled waaaay too often. Stranger Things is filled with clichés, and yet they make it perfect. Sure, there are a couple of clichés that did make the plot *cough* predictable *cough*, but that didn’t ruin the Netflix exclusive. It’s difficult to exactly pinpoint what makes these clichés great other than they are perfectly executed. While it is true, many of us loathe clichés since they strip us of any emotional connection we can feel, the Duffer Brothers manage to stitch the right pieces together. Despite borrowing elements, the series succeeds in managing to give it a unique tweak.

“Science is neat, but I’m afraid it’s not very forgiving.”

Mike’s sister Nancy and her beau join Jonathan’s party. (Natalia Dyer, Joe Keery)

Despite the messiness of plot-holes and a myriad of clichés, Stranger Things left me happy, confused, and yearning for more. For far too long now, I haven’t been able to catch a good horror, sci-fi, or thriller until now. The Duffer brothers have succeeded in not only bringing light to now-dull genres, but also in wrapping them together into one package. Stranger Things is a rare occurrence—one that we all have been waiting for that reminds us of our high-standards of film. Go. Watch. It. NOW!

Running Time: 8 Hours (8 episodes)

Rating: TV-14

Final Verdict: A- / A

Get ready!

One Response

  1. So, as a known critic I am, I decided to read my fellow critics review. Soon as I noticed your choice of wording I couldn’t help but laugh. I was sitting there in my office chair “hahaha,” that was the sound that came out. I didn’t read it, because I couldn’t stop laughing at the first paragraph. Hah.

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