Last night I spent a sickening amount of time in bed watching Netflix. I would be ashamed, but instead I feel enlightened – for I have finished Stranger Things.
It’s a new science fiction horror series by the Duffer Brothers – two genius twins – set in 1980s Indiana. The story goes that a local boy has gone missing, having been captured by a mysterious creature. And so his pals set out to find him on an adventure more fantastical than their boardgames.
The strange thing is that I deplore sci-fi, and so my relationship with this series has come as something of a surprise. Anything with aliens, science banter and whatever else might be termed ‘Brian Cox porn’ leaves me cold. But then I saw that Winona Ryder was in Stranger Things, and being a big fan of hers, I thought I’d give it a try.
She stars as the mother of the kidnapped child, weeping and screaming as she hunts for news of her baby. It is a rotten part to get, and yet Ryder may be the only woman in the world who can dazzle in such a role.
You have to give Stranger Things time. The beginning of the series left me confused to say the least, and I did begin to wonder if its scriptwriters had done a ‘Lost’ – and were making the story up as they went along. Eventually things fell into place, and it evolved into one of the most gripping, fulfilling dramas I’ve seen in ages. Even the scientific parts had me glued to my seat – /bed.
The Duffer Brothers are masters of style, and Stranger Things features some highly imaginative sets that somehow complement an eerie minimalist soundtrack. The music provides the whole backbone to the piece, and definitely deserves an award or five. There are many cultural homages along the way – to 80s films, and even the more recent Donnie Darko and Drive – but Stranger Things is still its own beast.
What really sold the whole thing to me was that I liked the characters – a lot! There are so many of them; they talk like real people, and they’re complex. Dotted along the way are plenty of satisfying ironies and nuances – and romance – to keep even the most reluctant of sci-fi watchers enraptured. This is where Stranger Things trumps other films in this genre, which are often weak on characterisation in lieu of flashy technology.
This Netflix series made me laugh, cry and envy the Duffer brothers – for they have created something as special as it is supernatural. Stranger Things really is strange – for it has united audiences that are galaxies apart.