Back In Time
The new Netflix show that’s more than acceptable in the ’80s.
released OUT NOW! 2016 | available to stream Creators The duffer Brothers Cast Winona ryder, david Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown
Taking a long line of cinematic touchstones and giving them an affectionate rub, this exercise in ’80s adventure will induce a nostalgic glow even in those too young to have ever worn deely boppers to a roller-disco or done a wheely on their BMX.
Over eight well-paced episodes it unfolds the story of three young boys in smalltown Indiana, whose friend Will vanishes without trace one night. What connection does his disappearance have to a nearby government lab, and to a shavenheaded girl they find in the woods, who barely speaks a word and has a number tattooed on her wrist? It’s an appealing mystery.
You don’t need to be a film buff to spot some of the reference points: as the boys struggle to protect 11 (El for short) you’re liable to flash on the likes of Stand
By Me, ET and Carrie. Meanwhile, their older siblings are negotiating adolescent ups and downs in a John Hughes high school movie. Other reference points are a little less obvious – we may see posters of The Thing and The Evil Dead, but the gruesome monster of the piece seems more like something from a Brian Yuzna movie.
The icing on this retro cake is the casting of ’80s/’90s goddess Winona Ryder as Will’s distraught mom. It’s a difficult role, requiring Ryder to spend much of her time hunched up on the brink of a breakdown, and she excels in it. It’s encouraging to see her coming to the fore again on the smallscreen, much as her Heathers co-star Christian Slater has in Mr Robot – both are too charismatic to be wasted on minor roles and DTV movies. David Harbour is equally impressive as police chief Hopper, a grouch who gradually reveals a tragic backstory and a heart of gold. Add strong performances by the kids – particularly Millie Bobby Brown as El, as captivating here as she was playing a girl inhabited by a middle-aged man in Intruders – and a gorgeous electro score and you have something pretty irresistible.
There is the occasional misstep – writers please note, nobody used the word “stalker” in the ’80s, while the idea of an average kid in Nowheresville USA being into The Smiths in 1983 set off our bullshit alarm. But mostly the setting seems authentic – and, more importantly, like somewhere you want to spend time. Stranger Things could have so easily felt like some cynically manufactured knock-off, a bootleg Chinese Rubik’s Cube that creaks as you twist the faces, but it’s suffused with far too much human warmth for that to ever become an issue. Ian Berriman
The Stephen King-esque font used for the title is ITC Benguiat. It was also used for the copyright notice on Paramount videos.
Feels like somewhere you want to spend time
The bus conductor was really terrifying.