STRANGER THINGS

Back In Time

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

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.

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