Stranger Things: Why Netflix's new mystery series will be your next binge

The supernatural drama stars Winona Ryder as the mother of a missing child

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 20 July 2016 12:05
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Stranger Things Trailer

November 6th, 1983. Hawkins, Indiana. The setting of new Netflix series Stranger Things, a new supernatural drama to be added to the streaming service giant's ever-growing roster of original series. Here's why the unassuming 80s-set mystery could be just the series to binge watch this weekend.

It stars Winona Ryder

Heading up the cast of unknowns is Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice) who takes on the role of Joyce Byers, a mother pushed to the edge when her young son disappears. Following her appearance in 2015 HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero, it's refreshing to see Ryder making a good run of savvy career choices which were reignited by a brief role in Black Swan back in 2010.

It's wonderfully retro

From the shabby font used for the episode titles to the throwback costumes and hairstyling donned by the show's cast (let's hear it for the specs too), Stranger Things' business is 80s nostalgia. The Duffer Brothers - the sibling duo steering the series - have taken care to ensure no stone's been left unturned when it comes to steeping the show in the time period aided by a score that would make Nicolas Winding Refn blush with pride. Even Ryder's casting is essentially a throwback to the decade that made her a star.

...and wears its influences on its sleeve

The show's plot follows a group of misfit kidswho embroil themselves in a small town mystery, immediately pitching Stranger Things as something ensconced in the same world as 80s Amblin films so typified by Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters, E.T.). In this way, it evokes Super 8, JJ Abrams' marvellous 2011 project that basically concerned itself with rehashing those films. The influences don't stop there either...

It's an effective mishmash of genres

As well as this dose of the Spielbergian, Stranger Things carves itself out as a loving paean to other filmmakers of the decade - most notably John Carpenter (there's even some high school antics to be enjoyed à la John Hughes). While often dangling these off the end of its nose, the producers crucially ensure any homage serves the era as opposed to pushing the series off balance with an overwhelming abundance of references... even if it is Stand by Me meets E.T. via The Thing.

...but has a beguiling mystery at its heart

Yet, strip all of this away and the show's pull remains Byer's hunt for her missing son. The opening scene alone, which tracks Will's disappearance, sets the tone for what's to come. If you're not reeled in by the time the credits roll eight minutes in, perhaps watch BoJack Horseman instead.

There are only eight episodes

No, not a hefty 13, but a manageable eight. With gripping dramas like House of Cards demanding you enjoy its series over the course of a month (or days, depending on your restraint), Stranger Things could very tangibly be polished off in a matter of viewings. It's emerged that this was the way producer Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) and co. devised the series, telling Evening Standard: "I’ll be amazed if people have the fortitude to take their time with Stranger Things. If they can watch an episode every several days, we’ve probably failed."

Something tells us they haven't.

The child actors are next-level good

So many films and TV shows are sullied by weak casting decisions when it comes to its younger characters; no such issue here. In fact, the children featured in this series are just as important as the adults - namely Finn Wolfhard who gets just as much screentime as Ryder playing Mike Wheeler, the best friend of her missing son. The show's crowning glory? 12-year-old actor Millie Bobby Brown who plays arguably the show's most important character, Eleven, with magnificent nuance. It's only a matter of time until Hollywood comes sniffing.

The first season of Stranger Things is available to watch on Netflix now

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