Are you ready for the most underrated release of the Summer of 2016? No, not Pokemon Go, we’re talking about Stranger Things, the science fiction/supernatural thriller produced by Netflix, written and directed by the The Duffer Brothers (Ross and Matt), rooted in some really weird stuff that happens in a small, American town in the early 1980’s. And for those who love stories based on actual events, this very well may be, you know, one of those series of events that we just don’t talk about because people might think we’re crazy. But if you need more reasons why you should watch it, well, here you go.
10. Netflix Always Delivers The Goods
To quote the great Mugatu, Netflix is so hot right now. The company that put every video rental service out of business is operating on a low-risk/high-reward model that is gobbling up everything from viewers to shiny awards trophies, thanks to an incredible library of original programming. Viewers should expect the same from Stranger Things. Judging by the trailer, it looks slick, the period is well represented, the cast is on the same page, and the overall tone is a dark and mysterious lure for the appropriate audience. The two big names in the cast should also lure some old fans who are curious to see what they’re up to. (More on them, momentarily). Stranger Things may not be everyone’s particular cup of tea, but it should align nicely with the hour-long offerings already available on Netflix. And when it comes to the first season, viewers can dive in deep in a mere eight episodes.
No, bingewatchability wasn’t a word, but thanks to Netflix, it is now. It fits our contemporary, western society to a tee. As mentioned, Stranger Things comes with a first season boasting eight one-hour episodes, and was released on July 15, 2016, meaning someone will probably be done watching this thing in time to go out on Friday night, while others will save the binge watch session for Saturday. Whatever the case, it is not hard to imagine that most people will watch the first episode, and either immediately follow it with a second and third, or decide, “This isn’t for me,” and begin scrolling through other options for two hours. And that’s one of the best reasons to have Netflix, and to take in these Netflix originals. If it’s too hot to get out and play ’til the sun goes down, there’s a very enjoyable, dare we say “strange” alternative available for eight hours.
8. The Series Swirls in Controversy
Okay. Okay. It’s not a lot of controversy, but there is some. It’s hard to imagine any legal ramifications coming out of the production of Stranger Things, but the one that did is worthy of note. The original title of the series was Montauk, which apparently was too familiar to a documentary film released in 2015, The Montauk Chronicles, which is also steeped in a mysterious tone. Both works, at their essence, were likely inspired by some of the unexplained curiosities stemming from missing children, and alleged experiments taking place at Camp Hero Air Force Base in Montauk, NY. Stranger Things takes place in a different location, and changes have been made for sake of story, but when it comes to the story being told in the new Netflix series, it is rooted in some strange stuff that began to happen in the tiny town at the northeastern tip of Long Island, New York.
7. Matthew Modine
It is so good to see Matthew Modine in the mix for this thriller. This guy was underutilized after his work in Full Metal Jacket, and perhaps a lot of that was by choice. Matthew never really swung for the fences of celebrity, but almost everything he has done has stood the test of time. For a lot of viewers, Matthew Modine isn’t a name that makes ears perk, or heads turn, but in terms of his body of work, he’s a big draw for this project. In short, if Matt does it, the script is solid. Does that mean it’ll translate well to the screen? Not necessarily, but in this case, all of the elements have once again come together, and as far as a first season is concerned, Netflix should enjoy another winner, and Matthew Modine is a huge part of the formula for success.
6. Limited Summer Entertainment Options
Let’s consider the entertainment options coming to theaters for the rest of the summer. Well, there’s Ghostbusters, Suicide Squad, The Infiltrator, Jason Bourne, and…honestly, there’s not a lot more that’ll be considered a box office draw. Stranger Things will offer you the opportunity to take in several hours of entertainment at a discount, while hanging out with family, friends, or (if you prefer) locked in isolation, unable to blink as each episode unfolds. This really isn’t a plug for Netflix, but this was a perfect release for the company’s summer slate. They took a page from J.J. Abrams and the team behind Super 8, a similarly-themed movie that came out during the dog days of summer. As far as Stranger Things is concerned, this is another series that would be quite enjoyable to watch with family once kids are of a certain age. In the grand scheme of summer releases, this could very well be a Top 10 Release for the year when all is said and done.
5. Delightfully 1980s
Were the 1980s seriously over 30 years ago? And we’re rapidly approaching the 40 year mark. Well, that officially makes the decade vintage (if you were born in the 80s we’re sorry to inform you of that fact). To us, there’s something more enjoyable about movies set in the 1980s than some movies that were actually made in that decade. With hindsight being 20/20, the filmmakers are able to key in on the highlights, with the benefits of modern technology to make it easier to re-create the era. Stranger Things is set in 1983, and there will be something incredibly nostalgic for many audience members, while the time period will read as mysterious for kids who are watching their peers on screen. Ultimately, it’s a perfect setting for such strange things to happen. The 1980s were part of a world still reliant on analog, face-to-face interaction, communication and understanding, as opposed to the instantaneous digital age we now live in. And when the supernatural strikes, the stakes are immediately raised.
4. Cast of Relative Unknowns
You have to love seeing kids become stars on the small screen, and make no mistake, some of these youngsters in Stranger Things are going to go on to some impressive careers. For the most part, aside from Matthew Modine, Winona Ryder and David Harbour, most of this cast is unknown. There is something enjoyable about taking in a cinematic story with actors who are relatively unrecognizable, or who haven’t enjoyed an iconic role in some time. It is almost easier to dive into the world with them, as there’s an inherent universality when they’re accepted as “one of us,” as opposed to a big-name celebrity. As the series unfolds, viewers will likely gravitate toward several of the kids in the mix, and cling to a few favorites that they’ll follow for the rest of their careers. And for anyone who has taken in the first eight minutes that Netflix made available to lure viewers, if you need a starting point, how about the great work done by Noah Schnapp?
3. Dark Themes and Inherent Weirdness
Netflix did a great job keeping this one under wraps. They didn’t push Stranger Things like the initial release of House of Cards, or the most recent season of Orange Is The New Black. They kept this summer release in the realm of mystery and intrigue, allowed it to sit under the title of Montauk for longer than is usual on a project of this size, and offered a tease here and there without divulging what actually happens in this story. It turns out, what many thought would be a drama about a mother searching for her kidnapped child is actually a sci-fi thriller about a child who was abducted without a trace, and the subsequent wrestling match of sifting through the weirdness to solve the mystery. And by weird, we mean supernaturally so, not just a crazy guy who sits at the street corner and yells at nothing.
2. Winona Ryder
You’ve got to love Winona Ryder. She’s everything people don’t think she is. The Minnesota born, California commune-raised actress is as incredibly complex as you could imagine, and it shows in the roles she chooses. Looking at her resume, she’s pretty fearless when it comes to choosing roles, and it’s always nice to see her after a bit of a layoff, as she hasn’t enjoyed such a publicized role since Black Swan in 2010. There was also all of that weird stuff, including her battle with kleptomania, that happened in the years prior to that, so it’s nice to see her both in this show, and slated to reprise her role of Lydia Deetz in the potential Beetlejuice sequel. While Winona has the most marketable name of Stranger Things, she’s not sole lead of the show. In other words, don’t expect to see her in every shot, chasing the mystery of her missing son, but she’s very good in the amount of screen time she gets.
1. Appeals to The Kid In All of Us
The best thing about series/movies in this vein of entertainment, is that it draws the childhood imagination out of every single viewer. Within the first couple minutes, we’re right back into the mindset of a prepubescent kid, wondering, “What if this happened to me?” When it comes to real life adventures, few of us (if any) will get to experience the crazy stuff that happens in these supernatural thrillers. Those who have experienced them are most often referred to as crazy, liars, people of poor character, and usually subjected to the scrutiny of their critical peers for the rest of their lives. So, until and unless we can find definitive proof of the supernatural in this world, these types of series/movies are the way to go in order to keep everyone comfortable, stay imaginative as audience members, and avoid being labelled as anything untoward. For all these reasons, ultimately, Stranger Things is promising to be a wild ride!