In case you're one of the people who doesn't binge watch the hot-word-of-mouth Netflix shows soon after they release, "Stranger Things" is everything you needed in your life and didn't know it. The synopsis, according to IMDB.com, is "When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back." It's set in a small town in 1983, stars Winona Ryder, and is a mashup of science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and nostalgia with a dash of old-fashioned scares thrown in for good measure. As I tweeted back when I was first binge-watching it, I'm pretty sure Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Carpenter had a drunken night of debauchery in Las Vegas one night and "Stranger Things" is their love child. And that love child is my new best friend.
I thought I'd break down why this is a show you should be watching, in case you haven't yet.
"The Goonies" is one of my all-time favorite movies, and who didn't have the bejesus scared out of them by the first half of the "It" mini-series? The show's creators capture that same vibe here with their cast of fun, funny, and charismatic kids. When Will goes missing, his three best friends — Mike, Dustin, and Lucas — get dragged into the mystery when they discover Eleven, a girl with psychic abilities being hunted by the scary dudes who run a research facility on the edge of town. The kids are, hands-down, the best part of the show. Prepare for lots of bike rides in the vein of "E.T." and "The Goonies" as they try to solve the mystery of Will's disappearance. These kids are smart and well-written, and it's awesome to watch.
We first meet Eleven as she escapes from the research facility on the same night Will disappears. With a shaven head and wearing a hospital robe, it's obvious she's some kind of patient, but what happened to this poor girl? It turns out Eleven is a central character in the whole story. She reminds me of Charlie from the '80s book and film "Firestarter." She has a tragic back story and some super cool kickass psychic powers — which is why she's being chased by the scary dudes who run the research facility. When Mike and his friends find her and take her in, she becomes the only girl in their boy gang of nerds. She is a great character, well-acted, and has a heart-touching friendship that develops with Mike. She also loves Eggos (who doesn't?) which becomes a running joke throughout the show.
Part of the fun of this show is the mystery surrounding what's happening at that research facility I keep mentioning. Yes, there are scientists doing scientific studies that involve stuff straight out of science fiction. I'll just leave it at that not to give too much away. But the mythology is weaved like a thread throughout the entire series, bringing everything together at the end in a way that's intrinsically clever and organic.
Yes, there are teens involved too — mainly Will's emo brother Jonathan who refuses to give up on finding him, and Mike's straight-laced sister Nancy, who becomes involved when another person close to her disappears. Plus, there's her hate-him-but-kind-of-like-him boyfriend Steve who also gets dragged into things. They're the shout-out to John Hughes' "The Breakfast Club." There's also a hint of a romantic triangle that doesn't drag the story down, believe it or not. #TeamJonathan.
The score itself is very '80s, reminiscent of something from a John Carpenter movie. But since it's set in 1983, you'll also hear The Clash, Modern English, the Bangles, Joy Division, New Order, and even Foreigner and Jefferson Airplane. It's all used to great effect, too.
If you're a child of the '80s like I am, you'll probably smile seeing Winona Ryder back on your TV screen. She plays her role very well because she's Winona Ryder and brings a certain mix of awesome and crazy to her role as Will's mother. Plus, there's Sheriff Hopper, who ends up being another three-dimensional, well-written character you expect to hate but end up wanting to cuddle on the couch with because he needs it. And then there's Barb. Sweet, amazing Barb of the huge-rimmed glasses and feathered hair who steals the show in every scene she's in.
Basically, the characters are the best thing about the show, and if you can handle being scared and on the edge of your seat every few episodes, you'll thank me for pointing you in the direction of your newest guilty pleasure. Don't worry. There are only eight episodes so you won't lose too much sleep if you start early in the day.
Angela Campbell is the author of the psychic detectives series from Harper Impulse. Learn more about her and her books at www.AngelaCampbellOnline.com.