TV review: Stranger Things, Netflix
Retro sci-fi mystery starring Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine
November 6, 1983, the small town of Hawkins, Indiana: Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is riding home alone after an intense Dungeons & Dragons session when he sees 'something' (no spoilers here) in the woods, then vanishes. Across town a young girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with strange powers turns up out of the blue at the local diner. Meanwhile sinister government agents (led by Matthew Modine) and beleaguered local Sheriff (David Harbour) are searching for answers.
Stranger Things is beautifully made. The fashion, the synth soundtrack, even the typeface in the opening credits are spot on. It could be a lost 80s relic. Capturing the look and feel of the era, referencing Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or a darker remix of ET.
Thankfully Stranger Things isn't just an exercise in retro nostalgia; it's also a gripping mystery with heavy sci-fi overtones. Winona Ryder's distress, as Will's distraught mother, is palpable; there's also a wonderful naturalistic air to the free and easy camaraderie between Will and his geeky friends, who set out to find him after he disappears.
With just a handful of shorts, a few episodes of Wayward Pines and a single feature film to their name, Netflix have taken a chance with writing / directing duo the Duffer Brothers (aka twins Matt and Ross) but it's paid off. It's always hard to judge an entire series on the back of a handful of preview episodes. Lost proved how easily an unusual thriller of this type can be completely undermined with a shitty pay off but based on these first three episodes Stranger Things promises a solid dose of creepy suspense and mystery.
All eight episodes of Stranger Things are available on Netflix from Fri 15 Jul.