Stranger Things feels like a journey through Eerie, Indiana darkly. The horror/thriller is set in 1983 and has a great blend of humor, nostalgia and a behind the scenes dose of irony. Two of the show’s protagonists, Matthew Modine and Winona Ryder had breakout roles in the late 80s. Modine playing Joker in Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Ryder paying Lydia Dietz in Beetlejuice (1988).
In another touch of irony, Modine appears to work for a sinister governmental agency. Joker has grown up and become a man in black for Uncle Sam (although to be fair, it looks like Modine’s character is a doctor…in black.)
The Duffer Brothers have produced something that is a mix of horror and science fiction featuring a look back at the 80s with its brilliant music and Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Apart from feeling like “Eerie, Indiana” (sans Marshall Teller and the tongue-in-cheek humor and in-jokes) Stranger Things is also evocative of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Modine’s Dr. Brenner being the show’s Peter Coyote character and Ryder as a dark haired Dee Wallace-type mother figure makes the whole thing complete. (Eleven could even be the female version of Elliot only this time the child appears to be fully connected with the alien…)
The opening episode starts in Hawkins, Indiana with “Chapter One; The Vanishing of Will Byers.” The US Department of Energy at Hawkins has a problem; a man in a white lab coat runs down a corridor as an alarm sounds. Reaching the elevator he gets in only to be grabbed and lifted from view.
(At the time of the scientist’s apparent demise a series of clicking insectile noises are heard, a nod to SyFy’s Hunters perhaps?)
At Mike’s house he and his friends Lucas, Will and Dustin are finishing up a 10 hour stint of D&D. The lads have to stop their game and Dustin offers Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) a slice of pizza, someone has a crush. Will tells Mike the final number thrown was a seven; the demogorgon, he says, got him.
Shortly after something else gets Will. He races Dustin home and pulls out ahead. Riding past the energy facility a tall alien type figure appears after his lights flicker. Will crashes his bike. Running home he grabs a rifle and loads it. As he aims the weapon the light in the shed flares up and Will vanishes.
Dr. Brenner and a team inspect the energy lab and he is told that not only did the “alien” escaped but so did “the girl.” The young lady in question arrives at a diner/cafe wearing a torn hospital gown. The barefoot child enters through the back and starts eating french fries. The owner grabs her.
Later he feeds the starving girl and starts asking her name and where she is from. He learns that her name is Eleven. He calls the child welfare agency and asks for help. Eleven appears to have special “talents.”
In town Chief Hopper is about to have his day ruined when Joyce comes in to report her son Will missing. Joyce is a single mother who relies on her eldest son to help run things. The D&D crew discover that Will is not at school and we learn that they are bullied.
At the school Dustin shows he can yank his shoulder out of its socket. Something that will probably be crucial at some point in the near future.
Nancy, Mike’s older sister, is dating Steve and he is a guy more interesting in making out than doing anything else. Joyce meets with Hopper and the search for Will begins. Hopper finds the boy’s bike.
At the cafe, a woman shows up claiming to be from he agency. As the owner says she sounds different in person, she shoots him with a silenced pistol. Eleven heads for the back exit only to be stopped by two men with guns.
Out front Brenner comes in the building and there is a noise out back. Heading to the rear of the diner they find the two men laying on the floor and the girl gone.
The search for Will continues and his friends decide to help. In the wet woods they stumble across Eleven.
Stranger Things looks to be a good one. Ryder is always excellent in what ever role she appears in and Modine has thus far impressed as well. David Harbor is effective as the grief stricken police chief and the child actors are holding their own.
The series is a Netflix original and, as is the custom, all episodes are streaming at the moment. The season one open has started off very well and this one seems to be one to watch.