If you're a horror fan and you haven't heard about Netflix's newest sensation Stranger Things, you might be living under a rock. I started seeing posts and tweets about Stranger Things a couple of weeks ago, and of course, I saw the feature on Netflix, but I didn't have time to check it out until this past weekend. A few episodes in, and I said the heck with writing and started binge watching episodes. This show is why Stephen King recommended tossing your TV in order to be a better writer.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
If you were a kid in the 80s and loved that era's horror movies, Stranger Things has all the things that you loved. The very beginning of the first episode is slightly more modern in its cinematic choices, but still horror storytelling at its finest. When the four boys around which the story mainly revolves are introduced over a game of Dungeons & Dragons, however, this is where the 80s horror nostalgia really starts.
The scene is a little bit E.T. and a little bit Stephen King's It. After Michael's mom breaks up the game, the boys split off toward their respective homes on their bikes and then we follow young Will Byers as he bikes along the typical dark road that runs beside the typical dark woods. The fun really starts when he's startled by a bizarre silhouetted figure in the road ahead and he crashes his bike in the woods.
As in all great 80s monster flicks, the chase is now on.
Will takes off through the woods on foot the rest of the way to his house. The dog going crazy inside the house only serves to ramp up the tension. The boy gets into the house and starts running from one room to another shouting for his mom and older brother, but of course, no one else is home but him and the dog, and we get the sense that the dog's not going to be much help to him when Will stands staring at the locked front door and watches the chain lock slide itself loose. Wisely, he takes off through the back door and heads for the shed out back.
Locked inside the shed, young Will takes down the conveniently unloaded hunting rifle and begins fumbling with the bullets he's frantically trying to load it with. We expect the monster to come bursting through the shed door at any moment, but Will gets the rifle loaded and turns to face the door.
Everything is silent aside from the boy's heavy breathing. And then, in true Alien fashion, we get the shot from behind Will as the monster rises up behind him. Since the first episode is called "The Disappearance of Will Byers", I think you can guess what happens next.
I really enjoyed this show from beginning to end. It has that 80s horror feel ingrained in it. From the creepy red font on the opening title and the synthesizer-heavy theme to the way it eschews cheap scares and jump scenes for really great, suspense-driven moments, it is the horror many of us grew up on and loved. There are few straight shots of the monster, again a la Alien, and the backgrounds of the characters are told through well-placed flashbacks that flow perfectly along with the current narrative.
I could have done without the epilogue (it's my experience they rarely serve a purpose aside from a "to be continued" moment or "that's all folks!"), and there were a couple cinematic choices I disagreed with in the last episode. Otherwise, this show was perfectly done, and I recommend any horror fan watch it right now. I can't wait for season 2.
But for now, back to writing.