THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Stranger Things is the latest home run produced by Netflix. Winona Ryder headlines the cast but it is really an ensemble effort. Everybody does a stellar job, even the child actors. Sometimes kids can be hit or miss in films and television. Ryder is increasingly frantic and haggard which is a great portrayal of the mother of a missing son. The show blends multiple genres including horror, science fiction and mystery. It takes place during 1983 in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. Everything is a throwback to the 1980s especially the movies of the decade. Films such as Jaws, The Evil Dead and The Thing are featured on posters. At least three references to Stephen King are made, that I can remember. My favourite is a shot of the kids walking on the train tracks in the forest which I hope is a reference to Stand By Me. The music on the show is great and it fits well with the atmosphere of the series. It has a catchy theme song too. Each episode’s title screen moves towards the screen. It reminds me of something that would appear in the opening credits of an 80s horror movie.
The main story is about the disappearance of a young boy named Will Byers. He leaves his friend’s house one night and seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth. His mother Joyce(Ryder) does not notice him missing until the next morning. Search parties are organized but not many traces outside of his bicycle are found. Will’s three best friends, Mike, Lucas and Dustin start their own investigation into his disappearance.
The US Department of Energy conducts experiments at a secluded lab in Hawkins. One of their biggest projects involves the development of a human weapon. A young girl named Eleven possesses strong telekinetic powers. She spends most of her life performing various tasks for a man named Dr. Martin Brenner. Eleven escapes the lab and crosses paths with Mike who takes her to his house.
Sheriff Jim Hopper works closely with Joyce on the case. His searching leads him to startling discoveries. The killing of a restaurant owner who first finds Eleven is mistakenly connected to Will. After Will’s “body” is discovered in a local quarry, Joyce protests that is it not her son. Hopper breaks into the morgue after hours. He cuts open the body to find it is full of stuffing. His partnership with Joyce is formed after this discovery. They speak with a woman who claims Dr. Brenner stole her child. The mother also believes her daughter has special powers. This influences Hopper to prod the local laboratory for a look around the property.
Simply put, Will is stuck in another dimension or universe (referred to as The Upside Down) that is a twister reflection of his own. He can communicate with his friends and family but only through special circumstances. Joyce is able to talk to him through lights set up in her home. Eleven helps the boys contact Will through walkie talkies as well as a HAM radio. The connection between the two worlds is usually spotty and short lived.
An alien creature from the other world stalks Hawkins for prey. It is attracted by the scent of fresh blood. The kids refer to it as a Demogorgan. It can easily travel between the two worlds. A few times it actually pushes it self through Joyce’s wall as if it were a plastic membrane. The Demagorgan is fairly resistant to gunfire and melee attacks. Being set on fire doesn’t even stop it.
Will is not the only person to go missing from Hawkins. Barbara, who is a friend of Mike’s sister Nancy, is snatched up by the Demagorgan. Nancy teams up with Will’s brother Jonathan to search for her. They stumble upon a gateway to the Upside Down world before any of the other characters. Nancy is stuck in their briefly while trying to avoid the monster.
Hopper sneaks into the Dept. of Energy Laboratory one night. Dr. Brenner and his team have found a portal to The Upside Down. He manages to make his way deep into the building and discovers the room with this gateway. Eventually, they catch him, drug him and Hopper wakes up the next morning at his trailer.
Joyce, Hopper, Nancy, Jonathan and the four kids convene together on a plan to rescue will. A deprecation tank is constructed at the school so Eleven can contact Will. Once they find his location, Hopper and Joyce head to the laboratory to enter the portal to The Upside Down. Nancy and Jonathan try to kill the Demagorgan but it survives the attack. Hopper and Joyce are caught at the facility. He gives up Eleven’s location in exchange for safe passage into the other world. The government agents storm the school with Dr. Brenner to corner the kids. Eleven is able to kill some of them but the doctor catches up to them. The Demagorgan shows up and attacks the men. All four kids seek shelter in a classroom. They are trapped by the monster. Eleven gives up herself to remove the Demagorgan from this world. Will is saved by Joyce and Hopper, and brought to the hospital where he is greeted by all his friends.
An epilogue takes place one month after the the night of the rescue. Will has dinner with his family. In the bathroom it is revealed that he might be infested with some kind of bugs from the other world. Elsewhere, Hopper leaves some food in a box out in the woods including some Eggos(Eleven’s favourite food).
The show ends in a way that sets up for a second season. If it were not brought back for another year there would be a few loose ends. The biggest ones being Will’s sickness and the hint that Eleven is still alive. It has been well received so I don’t see why they wouldn’t bring it back. Lesser shows have been renewed by Netflix so I would be surprised if it got canceled.
If you haven’t yet seen Stranger Things, I highly recommend it. The season only has 8 episodes so if you are a binge watcher it won’t take you long to burn through them all. And then you will feel lost until season 2. Fans of 80s movies should especially like it. The next time you’re searching for a show to watch on Netflix give Stranger Things fair consideration.