Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weekend Movie Night: Stranger Things.

Stranger Things logo via Lowtruks

It's been a long time since I reviewed anything and I think it's time that changed. This time it's a tv series but for simplicity's sake I am just going to post it under the weekend movie night label. So what did I watch? Well the past two weekends I binge watched all eight episodes Stranger Things, the supernatural sci-fi horror Netflix Original. As always there will be spoilers in this review! I will mark when spoilers begin, so if you spoil anything it's on you!

So what is Stranger Things about? Well, it's clearly a throwback to 80's movies like ET, and Stand By Me and also showing a major influence from Stephen King. I also detected a bit of J.J. Abrams' Super 8 as well, which isn't surprising due to the fact it too is a genre throwback. As far as genre throwbacks goes I think that Stranger Things is right up there with Super 8 for the pre-teens running around doing cool stuff genre. It's a great homage and I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed those kinds of movies. 

The non-spoiler plot summary for Stranger Things goes like this. A boy goes missing in rural Indiana after hanging out with his group of friends and playing Dungeons and Dragons. The boys go looking for him and find a girl with a shaved head. The entire town goes looking for him and discover a monster, a government conspiracy and that the girl is more then what she seems. It's a good story but I can't really describe it more without spoiling it. 

The cast was quite good for the most part. The five younger children in the show did a very good job and acted the way I think children would act in this kind of situation. Hell, everyone acted fairly well. My only complaint is that one of the shows stars, Winona Rider, was rather annoying. Don't get me wrong, she played her role well, it was just that her character was kind of annoying. I think she was supposed to be though considering what she was going through. 

Stranger Things had decent enough special effects for a Netflix Original. They weren't spectacular or anything but I have seen way worse. They made the most of what they had though because they followed the example of Jaws. Not showing the monster makes it way more scarier, and they did that quite a bit throughout the show. The show wasn't truly horrifying but it did spook me a little bit. 

All and all I have to recommend it. If you were on the fence about watching it, I say go for it. The only people that won't like the show are people that hate horror or sci-fi. It's not perfect but if you are anything like me you will watch an episode or two and get hooked. 


I loved how the kids interacted with each other in this show. They seemed like real kids, and I appreciate that they were a bunch of nerds. I never played Dungeons and Dragons when I grew up but I was a bit of a nerd myself, so I could relate. Plus I loved how 80's the parenting was in this show. All those kids were running around without supervision and getting into trouble. That's how I grew up and it was nice to see it even if it lead to huge horrifying problems for the kids in this show. 

I don't usually like romance plots but I though the love triangle sub-plot between Nancy, Jon and Steve was well handled. In any other series Nancy and Jon would have ended up together. Steve was kind of a tool, like people named Steve often are, but he redeemed himself in the end. He actually seemed to care about Nancy more then Jon did and it legitimately seemed that they were a better match. I loved this because you never see this in media these days. It's always the brooding loner that gets with the girl, not the jerkass. Seeing it the other way around is refreshing.

As for the upside down dimension it's not really a new concept but I liked the way they handled it. Strangely enough it reminded me of the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past video game of all things. A light world and a dark world. The science of it makes some sense as well. I am sure it wouldn't pass muster if you look at it too hard but I have read actual scientific  theories that pretty much use the same ideas that Stranger Things did. That's right, there really could be another dimension all around us that we can't see or interact with. Comforting thought right? Hopefully there aren't any real monsters like the one in the show! 

There were a few things I didn't like besides Ryder's Joyce character. For one, I tend to think the government conspiracy theory angle is a bit overplayed. Though MKUltra was a real thing, it's just so overplayed. I know it comes with it being an 80's throwback but I would have liked it if there was at least one good character that worked for the federal government. 

I also thought that some of the characters we were supposed to sympathize with were total assholes. Joyce was annoying but her son Jonathon was a jerk. He left his mom to fend for herself even though it looked like she was going completely crazy. And he was pretty mean to Nancy while they were looking for his brother. He was nice to his brother of course, but still, not a nice guy. Sheriff Hopper was likable enough but he totally sold out 11 and her friends to the government. Sure, he did it to rescue Will, but it was still a dick move. 

I really enjoyed this series, but it's clear that they were setting themselves up for a second season. The end of the last episode showed Will barfing something up and returning to the upside down briefly. There is also the question of what happened to 11 and the monster. And we also didn't find out what repercussions there will be for Hopper betraying 11 in exchange for everyone's freedom Clearly they left a few plot threads hanging. I really, really hope that we get another season or two to resolve them! 

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