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Review: Netflix's Stranger Things

It’s rare I let myself binge-watch serial shows on television. I try to avoid TV series all together, but lately my attention has been teased by a few being shown exclusively on Amazon and Netflix. I was recently told by a friend to check out the new Netflix-inspired drama, Stranger Things, which recently concluded its first season. Created by twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer  (dubbed the Duffer Brothers), the story begins with the pursuit of young boy named Will Byers, played by Noah Schnapp, whose disappearance rocks a small town of Indiana with supernatural intrigue and a growing horror of secret lab experiments gone wrong.

The story is set in 1983, and the tone certainly feels like films from that era. I’m now six episodes deep into the series, and so far, I’ve been reminded of several films such as ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Resident Evil (2002) and basically anything John Carpenter and/or Stephen King. In my research, I find out it’s actually a heady homage to the pop culture of the era, and I certainly get this feeling by the end of the first episode. It has the mysterious little girl with unexplainable powers, the deadly creature that lurks in-between worlds and roams the woods in search of lonely souls, that sleepy town rudely awakened by events they can’t quite explain away.  The story is familiar and feels as if it’s been told before. Part of the intrigue here is whether the story is going to be a typical ride in the sci-fi/horror countryside or a breathtaking journey to a whole new country of visual storytelling.

I like the nostalgic grittiness of what I’ve seen so far, although I’m not quite convinced yet the series will be worth following through. The characters retain a humbling ruggedness that makes them easy to relate to, although Wynona Ryder as Will's deranged mother is a little hard to like at first as she loiters battily around the house instead of joining her son's search party, and ends up drunk on the couch with her ex, Will’s father, played brilliantly by Ross Partridge. I especially liked newcomer Charlie Heaton, who plays Will's tortured older brother, Jonathan, and the mysterious Eleven, played by the enigmatic 12-year-old Millie Bobby Brown.  The first thing I asked myself when I saw Millie appear in her ragged little hospital gown: did she really have to shave her head for the role? Brave girl.

I’ll save my final thoughts on the series until I see the last three episodes of the season, and express hope the show will finish strong enough to bring me back for Season Two. If you haven’t yet checked out Stranger Things, you can catch it on Netflix. Be sure come back to Magic Spiral and share your thoughts. 

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