Stranger Things

There was buzz about this Netflix show long before it even aired earlier this summer.  Netflix cannily marketed it as a Winona Ryder comeback vehicle since she was the 80s/90s go to face of the moment.  And that of course could only help a project that was paying "homage" to 70s, 80s, and 90s conspiracy films.  So the excitement was mostly about seeing her in a starring role.  Not to mention the fact that it was also a horror, science fiction, boy's adventure series.

When I was younger, I would have been all over this show.  But today, it took me awhile to finally getting around to watching it.  I binged watched it yesterday...all 8 hours of it.  So I'm a bit frazzled and can only give my quick, off the bat impressions of it.  But on the whole, I quite liked it.

Ostensibly the stars of the series were Winona Ryder and David Harbour with a big cameo by another 80s/90s "face" Matthew Modine.  Yes, Ryder has a large part but she wasn't the driver of this story.  The kids were the ones who were connected to everything.  They initiated the action.  Luckily the kids were well cast and acted well.

I think it is important to note that this show is not a period series like Mad Men.  It isn't about the culture of the 80s.  What it is, is an attempt to create a film or television show that could have been made in the 80s.  This is at the heart of what makes the series so enjoyable and yet at the same time so annoying.  All the actors (adults and kids) rise above the over used material to really make something of their characters.  However it gets to the point where it seems the show is just ticking off a list of greatest scenes to copy from older cultural landmarks.  Off the top the show copies/plagiarizes scenes from Carrie, The Fury, A Clockwork Orange, Halloween, Alien, Carpenter's The Thing, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Eraserhead, The Shining, Creepshow, Videodrome, Scanners, The Dead Zone, IT, Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Stand by Me, Goonies, The Parallax View, E.T. (of course, of course), The Fog, Fright Night etc., etc.  It even calls to 90s fare such as X-Files and Twin Peaks.  The 00's weren't left out since it throws in a bit of The Ring.  Also to add into the overflowing kettle of call outs, the series quotes video games such as Doom, Resident Evil and Silent Hill.

I could add so much more copy bot stuff from other projects.

After awhile it can make you wonder if this show was original or really just a clever rehash of different scenes from different films.  I'm still trying to figure that out.  Hopefully since a second season was just announced, the series will now strike out on its own and leave behind the emulation tricks.

Still I have to admit, I had an enjoyable time watching it.  It captures the nuance of 70s/80s adventure films.  It has the same goofy logic mixed in with some hard action and sometimes thought provoking ideas.  It also had elements of horror that is perfect for the upcoming Halloween season.  I'm not going to touch on the conspiracy theory aspects such as MKULTRA etc.  There are better essays around the internet on that factor.  But I will say there is a lot of Alchemical imagery involved.

Is it worth subscribing to Netflix for a month or two to watch it?  YES.  Even more so if you were a kid of the 70s/80s.

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