Monday, August 1, 2016

Alles Klar Herr Kommissar, or Thoughts on Stranger Things

Stranger Things on Netflix places the viewer in Indiana, 1983 in an authentic and affectionate portrait of the decade.  It’s what I assume was the same spirit that the 50’s were portrayed in Stand by Me (1986), which ostensibly, was also about a group of childhood friends searching for a missing kid.  A sci-fi horror referential of Stephen Spielberg and Stephen King (note the opening credits font), the series follows three best friends as they search for their Will, who was lost in the woods like a modern (80’s) fairytale.  With their walkie talkies, Schwinn bikes, and obsessions with Dungeons and Dragons and all things Tolkien, the kids are straight out of The Goonies (1985), or at least the kind of boys who would have enjoyed a Saturday afternoon matinee of The Goonies.
I always feel bad for Winona Ryder; Girl Interrupted (1999) was meant to be her comeback movie and instead co-star Angelina Jolie won an Oscar for it.  But she gets another shot with her performance as Joyce, the single mother of the missing kid Will.  Her performance starts out as a typical harried TV mom but quickly takes a turn into a darker, more Twilight Zone-y territory, full of (wait for it) Stranger Things (I couldn’t help myself).
David Harbour from Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Quantum of Solace (2008) portrays the police chief, Jim Hopper, in a performance that is reminiscent of the Fargo TV series.  He’s another small town cop dealing with a big city crime, and along with Winona Ryder, forms the adult core of the series.
The boys sneak out at night on their bikes to look for Will; instead they find a telekinetic girl with a shaved head named Eleven.  You know the government is looking for her; it’s that kind of TV show.  Stranger Things has also been compared to The X-Files but that was a 90’s show, this is more like Amazing Stories or Friday the 13th: The Series (dude, I had the biggest crush on Robey).
All those cassette tapes, vinyl collections, land lines and 80’s references have been mentioned in previous reviews and Stranger Things does an fantastic job of capturing the nostalgia of a specific time and place.  However, in the first episode, Chris Sullivan as Benny the friendly diner cook finds the telekinetic Eleven and sports a shaved head with a receding hairline and a full beard.  That’s a very contemporary look; in the 80’s he would have grown his hair out, like Bruce Willis in Moonlighting.  It’s the little details that can take you out of the story, and remind you, that as much as you might want to, you can never truly go back home.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…