Over the last few years it would be fair to say that, in society, the feeling of nostalgia is something that we have grown attached to. Vinyl record sales are at an all time high, ‘vintage’ clothing has become something of a trend, and films and TV shows that hearken back to years gone by seem to be increasingly popular. Stranger Things is the latest in a long-line of strong original content bank-rolled and published by Netflix, and the nostalgia wave is something it capitalises on tremendously, without feeling forced.
The ’80s is a period of time that I have no personal experience of, and yet, because of the huge amount of great film and TV both set in, and released, during the ’80s, the feeling of nostalgia generated by Stranger Things did have an effect on me. The show is fantastic at establishing a tone and an atmosphere that really drops you in this rural US town in the ’80s, and its ability to do this, and do it well, is unquestionably one of its strongest assets.
“Stranger things is able to channel all of this iconic work and not feel like a poor imitation”
The beauty of Stranger Things lies in its clear and apparent homages to stellar pieces of work from the ’80s and early ’90s; while watching the show, I was constantly reminded of some of my all-time favourite films and TV shows such as Twin Peaks, E.T, Stand by Me, The Goonies, The X-Files, and even (at times) Freaks and Geeks. The soundtrack (which is flat-out sensational and for my money one of the finest television scores ever) evokes the work of John Carpenter and really helps in creating the atmosphere that the show thrives on. Stranger Things is able to channel all of this iconic work and not feel like a poor imitation of something better, it is a production of such great quality that I am sure it will be held up there with some of the classic pieces of entertainment that it borrows from.
The performances from this child-centric cast are fantastic and the quality of the writing really enables the kids to take center-stage without the dialogue ever feeling forced or unnatural — it truly feels as though we are watching a series of unbelievable events happen to a close-knit group of best friends; Millie Bobby Brown’s performance as Eleven is a particular highlight, as more and more of her story is revealed when events progress. On the adult side of things, both Winona Ryder and David Harbour turn in great performances, with both striking the perfect balance between tragedy and defiance.
“these are characters you care about, and grow to love very quickly”
Stranger Things is able to drag you in to its world and not let go (I watched all eight episodes in one day); it produces a central mystery that is compelling, if at times familiar, and the reaction of certain characters to particular events really has an emotional effect on you. The conclusion to episode three is genuinely heartbreaking for instance, and it is the performances and writing that make it so. These are characters you care about, and grow to love very quickly.
Simply put, Stranger Things is the finest piece of original content that Netflix has produced. This is a world that you’ll want to be a part of, a frightening, atmospheric, and ultimately charming piece of work. The Duffer brothers have created something special, a magical blend of homage and originality with that key ingredient that somehow makes it all stick without feeling tired; nostalgia.