Stranger Things is one of the best movies to come out of the 1980s. Sure, it’s technically a Netflix television series that was released in 2016 but don’t let reality stand in your way. Stranger Things is too authentic and too perfectly crafted to be called anything other than an extremely long 80s movie.
All of the hallmarks of an awesome 80s movie are present. You have a plucky group of outcast kids who go on an adventure that’s way over their heads. You weird science fiction. You have a perfect soundtrack. You have Dungeons & Dragons. You have shag carpets and douche bag bullies with stupid hair. You have Winona Ryder. What more could you want?
I know one thing I would want if I were Winona Ryder: awards, all of them. Winona is the shining beacon. I’m not sure she has ever been better than she was in Stranger Things. She carries a lot of the emotional weight of the film—I mean, television series. Without her performance, it would be easy to lose sight of what’s at stake.
And Winona is only a small piece of the perfect cast. Every single cast member is perfect. It’s always risky business to have children as your main leads but every single kid is unique, memorable and on point, especially Eleven. Eleven is a little girl who barely speaks. She mostly looks at stuff and makes a facial expression. She kicks ass.
And then you have my favorite character Hopper, the sheriff. At first I was worried that he’d be too unlikable, but he quickly does a 180 and turns into a raging bull, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s refreshing to see the law enforcement in a movie—I mean television series be such an active participant, and so damn cool.
Stranger Things couldn’t be considered a television series. Mystery television series have the terrible habit of stringing the audience through a labyrinth by stacking cliffhangers onto new questions onto new cliffhangers onto new question while releasing only the tiniest bits of resolution, occasionally. *COUGH* Lost *COUGH*
Stranger Things breaks the mold by doing something shocking. It tells you what’s happening as it is happening. There is still an over-arching mystery, but the filmmakers aren’t holding everything back until the very end. The story flows effortlessly and demands to be seen all at once.
Episode one introduces a mystery and episode two resolves it by adding something new. Stranger Things doesn’t string you along the entire time in hopes you’ll stick around for a big finale. Every episode has a big finale that builds up to the biggest finale. Like a Slinky, as each mystery is revealed the plot propels forward in a hypnotizing fashion.
I wish my review ended here. I wish only to shower Stranger Things with platitudes. It’s a near-perfect show. But it’s not a completely perfect show. Luckily, the only negative I noticed was some subpar CGI.
Stranger Things is not an effects heavy show, so don’t worry about losing interest in a CGI smorgasbord. The effects are minimal. But I can’t really go into how, why and where without spoiling anything, but you’ll know it when you see it.
All I’ll say is that I find it odd that Stranger Things goes out of its way to praise the practical effects used in The Thing (1982) and then proceeds to use mostly digital effects. Hey! Remember this amazing work of creature effects? Well, you won’t see anything like that here.
I’m sure CGI had to be used for budgetary reasons, but it still feels like the filmmakers got 95% of their way to a perfect tone and took a shortcut for the remaining 5%. In this immaculately recreated 80s setting, the CGI sticks out like a nerd at a fraternity.
But seriously, that’s the end of my complaints, a couple of iffy special effects. And honestly, that even furthers my belief that Stranger Things is an 80s movie. Can you honestly watch the special effects in an 80s movie and not notice how abrupt they stick out from the rest of the film?
And as long as you have a riveting story full of memorable characters doing the impossible while dirty synths play in the background, you’re in for an excellent adventure.