July 18, 2016

TV Review: Stranger Things (Season 1)

"The worst thing about this show is that it was over way too quick."

(aka John Carpenter's E.T.)
Release Date: July 15th.
Country: USA.
Rating: NR.
Written by: Matt and Ross Duffer.
Directed by: Matt and Ross Duffer.
Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Matthew Modine, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, and Charlie Heaton.

Stranger Things is a love letter to the 80's. We grew up in the 80's, so the Dungeons & Dragons gaming sessions, the infectious pop music, the rotary phones, and TV antennas felt like a snapshot of our past to us.

In a way, we were the kids in this show. We were way cooler (obviously), but we played D&D, rode our bikes all over the place, and were totally afraid to talk to girls. Alright, fine. Maybe we were awkward too, but we're cool now. We think.

Even though we're going to keep things as vague as possible, mild spoilers do follow.

Hawkins, Indiana, 1983: After a particularly harrowing all-day session of Dungeons & Dragons in which Demogorgon lays waste to the entire party when one of the players rolls a shitty 7 (all you needed was a 13!), four middle school friends call it a night and part ways. One of them, Will, never makes it home.

Will's mother, Joyce, is frantic the next morning when she realizes her kid never made it home, and heads off to report him missing to the local Chief of Police, Hopper. He, along with everyone else, thinks that Joyce is crazy, because she kind of is, and so they aren't sure whether to believe her or not.

Will's friends are worried, and since no one else is making any progress finding him, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and search the woods for him. What they find instead is a little girl in a hospital gown with a shaved head, and a penchant for remaining silent, named Eleven.

And that's all we're saying.

From the get-go, Stranger Things did not feel perfect to us. The story felt all too safe and familiar; the acting was cheesy at times (calm down, Winona!); and even the cast felt odd at first, as most of the kids weren't your cookie-cutter, good-looking Disney types (which was a really good thing, btw); but man did it ever pull us into its world and keep us engaged through its entire 8 Episode run.

Stranger Things is a show that is deeply rooted in the 80's, and not just because it takes place then; it feels like E.T. and The Goonies meets The Monster Squad, with a bit of old-school John Carpenter flair thrown in to make it darker. It also had obvious nods to Alien, and it reminded us of Silent Hill more than once, so really, it's a bunch of things thrown into one big, 80's-centric pot that made us nostalgia in a big way.

Had "Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter Presents" popped up during the opening credits, it wouldn't have shocked us at all.

US, CIRCA 1983.
As nostalgic and comfy as the word of Stranger Things feels, there's a steady stream of darkness and danger that runs through it, which makes it much more than some kid-friendly throwback. The monster is real (and creepy as hell); Eleven is dangerous, and we're never sure just who she's going to take her anger out on; and the proverbial "men in black" are a real threat who kill indiscriminately to cover their tracks and get back what is theirs.

It's all very dire, and as sweet as it can be, it's all very serious.

It was also over far too quick, and it left us hanging on a few plot points that have us really hoping that Netflix gives it a Season 2. Seriously, the waffles!

Violence aplenty in this one, but the gore factor is low.

There's a bit of sex, but nothing gratuitous at all.

One of the coolest things about Stranger Things is how it uses 80's music to accent its story. It's like an awesome mix-tape. Our faves were:

Should I Stay or Should I Go (The Clash)
Africa (TOTO)
I Melt With You (Modern English)
Waiting For a Girl Like You (Foreigner)
Sunglasses at Night (Corey Hart)

Sentimental, intense, nostalgic and creepy, Stranger Things took us by total surprise. It's one of the best things that we've seen all Summer, and we can't wait to see the story continue in Season 2. There's going to be a Season 2, right?

If you have Netflix, stream this bad boy asap.


Stranger Things is streaming on Netflix now.

From the I we saw her in Lucas, Winona Ryder was one of my biggest crushes as a kid. She's still beautiful today.


  1. Pretty good, didn't think it was great by any means. Questionable acting at times and thin characters. But man was the soundtrack and score on point! That was great

  2. On the 3rd episode. I was about to correct you and say her name was Eleven, but I guess it was just a typo at Thirteen.
    This review made me think of another movie that was 70's and 80's throwback, which I'm not sure if you guys have reviewed. "Beyond the Black Rainbow". If you haven't seen it, um, you should find a copy immediately. Apparently the director only made the one film, and is the son of a director himself from the 70's and 80's. But the movie is fantastic.

    1. Nice catch. I get sleepy when I type sometimes :)

  3. I watched the first 5 episodes on the Friday it came out, passed out, woke up, and finished it the next morning.

    It has some minor flaws here and there, but I loved it overall. Plot-wise, it's basically my wet-dream of a horror/sci-fi story. I've actually tried to write stories like this, but could never piece something coherent together. The trailer suggests aliens, so I was a bit wary, but was relieved that it went in a completely different direction.

    The effects were worthy of theatrical release; the horror was on par with any R-rated movie; and the characters are developed well enough where I have an urge to rewatch the entire thing from scratch again this weekend.

    It has some flaws of course--there are 1 or 2 silly scenes, and the excitement of the mysterious plot fizzled a bit once they revealed all of the secrets--but overall I'd say it has easily earned a place alongside classics like Goonies, Explorers, ET...you name it. Great show.

    Can't wait for Season 2, but I kind of hope they go the anthology route and tell a completely different story next year. The end of S1 seemed to leave a few loose ends that suggest there will be a continuation of this storyline, but I honestly wouldn't mind if they just move on. Maybe treat each season as a puzzle piece in a larger puzzle, but I hope they don't try to shoehorn everything into this same town with the same characters--although I do like the characters.

  4. 10 days ago i cancelled netflix...was bored with some of the programs they came out with , removal of many,many great movies ,docs and series...you get it. then i read the reviews and went to friends to watch 1st episode - i renewed again.... fucking fantastic - even the stupid shitty synthesizers they used for the soundtrack was legit. When Narcos was delayed and is now ultimately not going to be a second season because of the dead criminals family wants a billion dollars from netflix....i gave up on them.... so i basically paid 9.99 to watch stranger things and i will cancel when im done.
    in summary... great great series and thanks to THCB i even knew it existed - YOU i will never give up on : )
    sincerely , howard

  5. We luv ya Howard. You're one of our old school friends, and we won't give up on you either... not sure how we would really be able to give up o n you anyway, but, you know. LOL

    The synths were really shitty lol

    Narcos is returning in August, I'm pretty sure.

    And for the record, Luke Cage looks pretty cool.

    I get wanting to cancel Netflix, and I could never rgue not to, but they do have some cool shot from time to time.

  6. thank you my friend - means alot!

    the narcos thing...you must know something i dont...which is not hard...ask anyone : )
    i heard few days ago on NPR that they were not even in production , nor was there an agreement made with the family --

    suggestion...as a guy i have to ask this.... can you have a horror hottie of the month? and then a HH of the year? kinda like playboy... if you were already doing that i must have missed....sorry


    1. Thats why people shouldn't listen to NPR, or any other news channel.
      Netflix owns the rights to the name and story, period.
      Roberto Escobar sent a letter to Netflix requesting that he wanted to review it, because they got alot wrong in the first season.
      Of course Netflix didn't respond.
      The Billion dollars was a joke from him, saying that he should sue, saying that a Billion dollars is what we used to pull in for a year back then, and apparently it's just growing on trees nowadays for Netflix.

      Thats straight from Fortune magazine.

      Really, who the heck listens to talk radio???

    2. hey mike - pretty sure in person you would modify your "thoughts" towards me - you took a positive statement i made to this blog and went youtube-like comments on me - not a good idea pal. insulted me twice too...

    3. No fighting, guys. I'll give you detention!

    4. j.s not for posting , im sorry - truly .
      im a pro fighter....sometimes my job passes thru to my passions and i hate negativity on something so insignificant. i refrained from mentioning his "fortune" magazine quote...

    5. This is why I've never tried to pick a fight with you, Howard. I watch Kingdom. I know not to poke the bear :)

      You're both cool guys, that's all. Life's too short to pick at each other over small things. No harm.

    6. Yeah, I was joking, but really, how can someone listen to someone drone on about news, just so boring.

    7. You js are my bro. I've watched years go by reading these reviews watching these movies absolutely captivated keeps me completely sane and I like the fact that it's a genre of movies I truly love that really has a lot to offer not just the garbage in the nonsense and it can entertain you in a funny way as well and you demonstrate that every day thank you

  7. For Narcos, I jsut read about it online, no inside source or anything.

    We do aHottie of the year thing, but of the month could be fun... :)

  8. I fell asleep alot during the episodes. But my girlfriend loved it.i honestly only liked the music Hahaha. Fantastic opening music. Wasn't scary or strange. All pretty normal sci fi stuff. Alot if clichéd characters too. Sheriff dead daughter single poor mom.

  9. awesome - - mike was only kidding....but then restates his insults?

    by the way mike... i read your google notes about how you dont judge people? i size people up. then i knock them out. it pays for school...mortgage, etc i come to this site for relief - i posted a positive message. keep your thoughts to the movies not your personality defects.

  10. So everyone is saying this is great. Everyone I know is all, "You've gotta watch this!" I take it with a grain of salt.

    Then the Horror Club recommends it, and I sit up & listen. My wife & I have watched seven episodes so far, one left to go, and it is almost indescribably good. First "Bloodlines" then this.

    Also, I noticed a bit of "Beyond the Black Rainbow" as well. Almost as if the creators of "Stranger Things" had watched that, gotten to the end, and wondered just what might happen next.

  11. Glad you liked it! It pays to listen to us :)~

    I still have to catch up on S2 of Bloodlines. I loved the first one.

    1. S2 is gooood, man! I am a big fan of that show.

      Also, thanks to you guys, I ended up springing for the new ROTLD blu-ray, even though I have it on DVD and the previous BR release. You guys are a pain in my wallet!

    2. That ROTLD Blu is great!

      We're a pain in our own wallets too, fwiw :)

  12. thanks for the heads up zombo ! will check it out

    1. No problem! "Beyond the Black Rainbow" is a slow movie (think 2001: A Space Odyssey) but is a worthwhile watch. It's beautifully shot on a fairly low budget by Panos Cosmatos, the son of the director behind "Tombstone."

    2. great reference point zombo...(2001) i will keep that in mind.
      i make time for the movies i watch and i have so little of it....it seems that i may misjudge a movie cause im too tired , sore , etc i will make time for this one. bloodlines did not look good in previews i saw , but because you guys say its good - i will invest the time

  13. Great show, Super 8 meets Silent Hill. Loved every minute of it, roll on season two.

  14. After the first episode, I thought this would end up like one of those shows I only watch the pilot and stops from there. Haha! But then I just found myself already watching the next episode and the next and now I'm only 3 episodes left and I don't want it to be over yet. I love the atmosphere of the show. Also, Millie Bobby Brown is such an efficient little actress. Love this show and I'm already excited for its future seasons.