Netflix's new hit series Stranger Things offers something for everyone — that is, if you can handle a little horror.
You may have already heard about the streaming service's new supernatural series via social media or from friends with a predilection for sci-fi mysteries. If you haven't, here's what you need to know about the show.
Stranger Things takes place in 1983, in a small town in Indiana. In the first episode, a 12-year-old boy named Will Byers goes missing, seemingly at the hands of a mysterious creature. His family, friends and the local police mount a search-and-rescue effort, but there's more to this mystery than a missing kid. A young, psychokinetic girl gets thrown into the mix, as well as a government cover-up that may be at the heart of the entire ordeal.
Netflix started streaming the program on July 15, so now is the perfect time to catch up with all your friends who have been raving about the new show. With only eight episodes in the whole season, a good afternoon of binge watching will get you where you need to go. However, if you need a little more convincing, here are just a few reasons you should give Stranger Things a shot.
The '80s Aesthetic
Did I mention this show takes place in 1983? The '80s as a decade is just far enough in the past that setting an entire series during the period still feels novel, and Stranger Things really brings the nostalgia. Everything about the show is a love letter to the time period, from the music to the clothes, the dialogue to the interior design. E.T. appears to be a distinct inspiration for the entire series, and The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" plays a pivotal part in one early scene. Even the poster that Netflix released to advertise Stranger Things hints at the show's '80s feel.
The wardrobe specialists for Stranger Things know that it's not enough to throw T-shirt featuring The Clash on a character and call it a day. Every piece of clothing makes sense for the period, and brings on instant flashbacks for viewers who lived through it. There's a green army jacket worn by Joyce, Will Byers' mother which fits the fashion of the decade well (and that I'd be happy to have in my wardrobe now, come to think of it). The music features plenty of familiar hits from the time, and once you get a look at Joyce's living room, you know the props department must have had some fun there. I'm fairly certain I've seen old photos of my parents sitting on a couch nearly identical to hers.
Speaking of fun, the Star Wars references are a treat for the geeks among us. Check out the little Yoda figurine in one scene, and listen for a favorite character's name dropped in another.
A Science-Fiction and Horror Marvel
If you're especially squeamish about horror movies, Stranger Things might not be for you. The few glimpses we get of the creature that takes Will in the first episode are scary enough. It kills someone right off the bat, and Will's disappearance after the monster tracks him down is sure to leave you unsettled. However, the violence is not gratuitous, and the result is a perfect balance that puts Stranger Things firmly in the horror genre without relying solely on freaking out the viewer.
Stranger Things reminded me of several different supernatural shows and movies. It has shades of early seasons of CW's Supernatural, before the time of angelic mythology and brighter lighting. Stranger Things could remind you of your own favorite sci-fi thriller or scary movie through something as subtle as a choice of scenery or music. The whole show feels like an homage to the science-fiction films of the era it's set in (think The Goonies or Alien, just to name a pair). And it does a damn good job of doing justice to its inspirations.
Child Actors — No, Really
While Stranger Things features some interesting adults, the real main characters of the show are the kids who make up Will Byer's friend group — and the young girl they discover in the woods while seeking out their missing companion.
It's a testament to both the writers and the young actors that these kids are actually believable as, well, kids. Viewers can find themselves invested very easily in these kids' story, their friendships and their determination to figure out what happened to Will. (He goes missing following a Dungeons and Dragons session with his friends, in case the rest of the show wasn't quite nostalgic enough for you.)
The loyal and kind Mike, the brash and bold Lucas, the slightly goofy Dustin with the toothless grin, and the psychokinetic Eleven spend much of the show as featured players. Each character is distinct and not just a homogeneous posse relegated to the B-plot, as most other shows would portray them. Stranger Things gives each character a time to shine, and it is, ultimately, their story. To their credit, the actors playing the kids make it entertaining as heck.
A New Addiction
As is the case with many Netflix series, it's so easy to sit down, ready to watch one episode of Stranger Things, and find yourself on the couch 3 hours later, too hooked to turn off your TV. The addictive quality of Stranger Things is remarkable.
Since the series is only eight episodes long (so far), it's really not difficult to sit through several episodes before realizing how far down the rabbit hole you've fallen. Something on the show is sure to catch your interest, whether it's following a particular character's arc or just seeing how many '80s references you can count in an hour.
It helps that the show doesn't rely on just the main Will Byers mystery arc to keep you watching. There are other puzzles to keep viewers invested from the very beginning. It's not hard to convince yourself that, maybe if you watch just one more episode, you'll find out exactly what happened to Hopper's daughter, or more about Eleven's past or how Hawkins Laboratory gets away with its unusual experiments.
Getting hooked on Stranger Things is surprisingly easy, and if you love the show, you'll be eager to tell everyone you know that they need to watch it, too. Still, it might be a good idea to keep the lights on for that first episode, at least until you know what you're in for.