TV Review: Stranger Things - Season 1

Finally diving into the cryptic new series from Netflix, the sci-fi thriller Stranger Things, I was pleasantly met with a phenomenally-crafted show, one that works not only as a homage to classic '80s filmmaking and storytelling, but also as an unsettling yet beautiful tale of mystery, fear, and the frightening unknown. Pulling together a ragtag cast of child stars and unknowns, mixed with a superbly mysterious atmosphere of aliens and strange occurrences, once again Netflix has drawn me in with another one of their most outlandish and highly-addictive projects.

In 1983 Indiana, 12-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) suddenly vanishes one night on his way home. Soon drawing together a frantic search for the lost boy -- which is led by not only his erratic mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), but also Will's trio of friends (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin) -- the quest to find Byers escalates rapidly as strange occurrences begin to pop up. After the trio of friends, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, discover a cryptic young girl by the name of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), with unique psychokinetic abilities, the search for Will is quickly derailed as dark forces set their sights on this mysterious child.

Culminating into a breathtaking series of strange occurrences and even stranger characters, mixed together with a plethora of nods to the 1980s and the decade's elaborate and innovative culture, Netflix's newest original series effortless reeled me in right from the start. While I may have taken a bit of time to actually check the show out, knowing little about it other than its cryptic premise, I eventually sat down and settled in for the unexpected. Right off the bat, the stylish and genuine '80s feel of the show reminded me instantly of a number of things. From 2011's J.J. Abrams film Super 8 to Steven Spielberg's classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Stranger Things managed to round up a decent collection of talented child stars and enjoyable nostalgia to call back not only to a time where filmmaking was revolutionized, but also a time where kids did whatever the hell they wanted. Working as a both a homage and a captivating story within itself, Stranger Things may call upon themes and characters we've seen before, but its genuine style and directing makes it something of a new sci-fi treasure.

Building up its modest cast -- including iconic '90s actress Winona Ryder and newcomer Millie Bobby Brown -- with some fluent characterization and acting, I didn't expect much at first from the show's unusual cast of mostly child actors. Surprising me with some effective acting skills from the leading kids, led by Finn Wolfhard, as well as Ryder -- who hasn't been around much on the big screen since the '90s -- the show managed to deliver just the right tone in which to craft its characters. Quickly installing a dangerous dose of hysteria into its mostly-innocent characters, nearly every character was able to be fleshed out -- in more ways than one -- and given their own unique motivations. While Ryder and David Harbour might have delivered some effective performances, the real praise has to go to Ms. Bobby Brown. Tossing in an odd and extremely powerful wildcard into the mix, Brown's strange telekinetic Eleven offered just the right amount of intrigue and silent wit to make her a stand-out character in the series.

Taking influence not only from the works of Steven Spielberg -- whose great sense of wonderment and adventure shine through even when the show is engulfed in darkness -- but also the works of classic directors like John Carpenter, Stephen King, and George Lucas, Stranger Things packs in a hefty amount of similar themes and directing styles of such legends, all while retaining a brilliant sense of originality. Whether it borrows from gripping horror films like The Shining or inventive classics of science fiction like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stranger Things' imaginative essence and likable yet secretly sinister characters make the show a fantastic representation of the memorable themes created by these legendary storytellers.

Overall, crafting a faithful homage to vintage filmmaking, mixed together with a whimsical story of youthful wonderment and frightening revelations, Netflix's newest addiction has once again drawn me back down the rabbit-hole of binge-watching. With a well-acted cast, a kick-ass '80s score, and a sci-fi mystery wrapped up in its small-town atmosphere, Stranger Things is your go-to series if you're looking to relive your childhood fantasies -- and your darkest fears as well.

I gave Season 1 of Stranger Things an 8 out of 10 for its fun and well-acted cast, its inventive and cinematically-beautiful '80s atmosphere, and its riveting tale of silent telekinetic girls, weird dimensional portals, and hysterical townspeople. What did you think of the first season of Stranger Things?    

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