By Danielle Kogan
Published: September 7th, 2016
As of this summer, “Stranger Things,” Netflix’s newest and most intense horror-mystery series, has become one to talk about.
The show traces the story of a missing boy in late-eighties Indiana, and depicts how the search for Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) by his family and friends is plagued by the otherworldly, the terrifying, and one miserably eccentric little girl, Eleven (Millie Brown).
Directed by the Duffer brothers, Matt and Ross, the series clearly capitalizes a nostalgic decade when stories of science fiction dominated entertainment. Although the show’s original casting and special effects are done to match the decade of the show, the technical aspects scream similarities to shows like “Bates Motel” in their lighting, and elements of the “Twilight Zone,” which are rehashed in the script. One of the episodes is titled “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street,” a slight variation of Rod Sterling’s “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”
At first glance, the script seems generally unoriginal, but it’s the casting that chalks the predictability that, contrary to popular belief, betters the show. There is always this understanding that the viewer knows what’s coming, and they have seen it all before, but never as authentically as they have from Caleb McLaughlin’s performance as Lucas in “Chapter Six: The Monster.”
In a massive fight over the forceful presence that is Millie Brown on camera (Eleven), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) breathes life into the common scenario of a fight with a friend with a tantrum that (thankfully) has not yet been filtered out by adulthood. It is a fight about whether Eleven is out to help or hurt the boys in their mission, a fact which cannot be determined for sure due to Eleven’s lack of human contact and air of dreadful mystery.
Besides, it is a conscious choice to cast young actors who keep the show fast-paced, requiring its audience to pay attention before glazing over the sentiments that allow the kids to make up and continue their mission and research.
On the other hand, Eleven provides a catalytic second-story due to her involvement as a child abused by secret facilities, only to learn what it is to be humane and make friends before drawing together the seemingly interconnected lives of everyone involved with the questioning of the supernatural in the final episodes of the show.
Of the adults, it is Winona Ryder’s character, Joyce Byers who is worth watching. From the first episode, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers,” her dramatic shift from a busy, working single mother to an erratic and persistent caretaker strikes a brilliant balance between over-acting and lacking emotion onscreen.
Even in her silence, she sets a tone that will make you hope against all odds that she is right, while communicating the ache of a pain that seems to practically hum through the screen. Joyce exists to be unfettered against the forces that stop her from reaching her child, even when everyone is convinced she is losing her mind with grief when she constantly purchases tiny lights just so that she can “talk” to her son. In fact, Joyce is a bad-ass with an energy that fails to diminish throughout the season, complete with a ‘does-not-give-a-damn-in-hell-what-you-think’ attitude, which is both empowering and refreshing to see in the media.
Anyone with an interest for high-quality content is someone who without a doubt should dive right in to “Stranger Things.” You’ll feel the need to binge-watch the season after the second episode, which is relatively early in comparison to shows known by those who are fans of sci-fi (think “Gotham,” “The 100,” and possibly even “The Walking Dead”). I recommend this show to those willing to pay attention and enjoy a good story. Plus, the show is almost revolutionary with its transcendence of its Gen X demographic, considering it’s fashioned as if it was made in the eighties and is served by these “Wayward Pines” directors as the penultimate distraction of everything we can consider modern technology. Basically, find a place to gasp (or scream if you scare easy). Oh, and get yourselves a blanket and some snacks; you’re in for one hell of a head-trip.