Since next Thursday is after Halloween, I needed one final series to talk about. And that’s hard with the sheer volume of great storytelling that Netflix is providing. But that’s where we can turn for a number of great ideas, especially for Halloween. The Haunting of Hill House deserves an article but I’m not done with it, so it’ll have to wait. I was seconds away from talking about Black Mirror when another series popped into my head. Since Black Mirror covers so much ground, I’ll come back to that one after Halloween. (Besides, I’ve already done two anthologies, so thought you’d rather hear about another episodic story instead!) Which brings us to Stranger Things.
And why shouldn’t that pop into my head first? It’s another series that plays dangerously close to Lovecraft territory. Stranger Things follows four friends who love to play Dungeons and Dragons together and ride their bikes around town. One night, Will Byers, one of the four boys, goes missing. The entire town get turned “upside down”. Add to that, the strange appearance of a little girl (Millie Bobby Brown) with telekinetic powers and things get seriously weird. Winona Ryder plays Will’s mom and her distress at losing her son is palpable. The thing is, they live near a top secret government facility which may have opened a doorway to another dimension from which Lovecraftian horror has arisen.
The young cast is amazing. The sell the story completely. Will (Noah Schnapp), for being absent for most of the first season, plays the part with uncanny conviction. His plight is felt throughout, driven home by Ryder’s anxiety and depression and Will’s brother’s (Charlie Heaton) feelings of inadequacy with his brothers departure. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is the de facto leader of the four through season one. His ability to keep the group together makes him the hero who gets to fall for the girl. Dusty “toothless” Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) steals the show in season one and takes over a good deal of the leadership role for season 2. And Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) tries to keep it together as he deals with some very strange happenings. The supporting cast is no less amazing, but this group just nailed it to such an extent that Netflix was given little choice at continuing the saga.
Through their ordeal, Eleven (Brown’s character) uses a game board to explain that Will was taken to another dimension, equal and opposite to our own (no, not Omega’s antimatter universe). They call it the “upside down”, within which resides a creature they call the demogorgon. It’s up to a bunch of kids to save Indiana and perhaps the entire world, from this demogorgon. (I refuse to spoil it by finding a picture of the creature; if you have not seen it, you need to watch the series – don’t ruin it for yourselves by looking it up!)
Everyone is waiting anxiously for the next season; deservedly so. The series takes place in the 1980s and it captures the feeling perfectly. If you don’t feel like you’ve been transported back, it’s simply because you were not alive then! From the opening music and logo coming straight from Halloween to the Poltergeist-style image of Will opening his door to look out at the horror that awaits him, the series might as well have been created 30 years ago and saved in a vault because the recreation is perfect. The creatures are horrific, the cast is amazing. Oh, and Sean Astin as Bob in season two is just one of the most likable characters one can imagine (not a far cry from his Samwise in The Lord of the Rings come to think of it!) Unfortunately we still have some time to go before season three comes to our screens. I’m certain it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, now is the perfect time to settle down in front of your TVs, pop some popcorn and get ready to have your world turned upside down with Netflix’s Stranger Things. ML