24 July 2016

Stranger Things (mild spoilers)

This is a Netflix science fiction series set in the 80s, where the disappearance of a young boy and the arrival of a girl with mysterious powers are linked to strange happenings at a shadowy research facility.  Think Firestarter combined with Super 8.

Like Super 8, there's a small group of boys involved, and a solid chunk of the story is about their friendship.  There's also an older sister who has a boys-related plot, which morphed into something better.  And a Sheriff who never really recovered from losing his daughter.

There's not a lot of...original in this story, but it's fairly gripping in parts (I'm a shameless skipper-ahead when there's boring scenes).  And there was stuff that, inevitably, annoyed me.

The boyfriend related stuff I simply found tiresome, even though they were clearly attempting to deconstruct some of the usual beats of that tale.  But what I disliked about the sister's plotline was where the sister's less-attractive best friend ended up.  Painfully predictable outcome.

I appreciated some of the brave and logical things 'frantic Mum' did.

One of the things that bugged me most, though, is that these D&D-playing, SFF-loving kids, have zero imagination about 'Eleven', the mysterious girl.  They are genre-savvy and she's clearly an escapee, clearly traumatised, has powers...and they are constantly attacking her for being 'creepy', for not explaining things clearly.  The same goes for the two older teens - at times they seem to be acting not out of bravery, but a complete failure to have any awareness of horror narratives, even after seeing more visual proof of creepiness than anyone else.  Who crawls through mucus-filled holes in trees and doesn't expect to find anything horrible on the far side?

It kept my interest to the ending, but then I was again rolling my eyes at the "reset to normality but not" final beat.  So a partial recommendation: some good suspense, a couple of occasions where girls got to step outside expectations, but we're definitely going back to the 80s with this - not anywhere new.


  1. At the behest of my friends I watched this - they insisted it was a good story with engaging characters and a creepy atmosphere I'd enjoy (being a horror fan and all).

    I guess I enjoyed parts of it. Maybe? I think I expected something MORE. The most fun I had was piecing out the homages to actual 80's films of its ilk and the music. I really liked the music.

    But the creep factor wasn't really there (the jump scares that startled my friends I knew were coming because the music telegraphed that stuff), by the end I really didn't like anyone in the cast (maybe the Sheriff? But I agree the kids got on my nerves - don't refer to her as "cool" for her superpowers and Yoda and mysteriousness then treat her like a piece of crap for not wanting to lead you into what she has said, multiple times, she did not want to go to.) And omg did the teen romance take too much space.

    Was it nice at the end when things seemed to have worked out better? Sure (though that sweater with his hair...). Did it seem kind of obnoxious for the rest of the series? Yeah.

    In the end I think I was bored 75% of the time. I worked on other things (reviews, spreadsheets, twitter chats) and never felt like I was missing out really.

  2. I think nostalgia is driving a lot of the show's popularity. It has its good points, but a bunch of weaknesses too.

  3. I finally finished watching it last night - and yeah, a little disappointing that it turned out to be a bit on the thin side. Some truly great moments, some loving nostalgia and some *very* mixed characterisation.


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