The Upside Down - Stranger Things Season One - Reviewed

Netflix has a new hit on their hands. Find out what we thought. 

That's it. I have to say it. The first 8 chapters of Stranger Things are one of the finest bits of original content ever released. I'm in love. 

Blood thirsty creatures. Government experiments. Other dimensions. Deprivation tanks. Dark realms. Bad men with guns. Kids on bikes. No iPhones. Evil scientists. Conspiracies. A mother's undying love. And friendship. The Duffer Brothers manage to weave together a tight knit throwback story that relishes in the fantastic as they finally give genre fans one of the greatest entries since The X-Files premiered years ago. 

As Netflix offers up another binge worthy show, members of their streaming service are given a mainlined dose of all the elements needed to recreate the feel of retro stylized '80s horror and sci-fi. Kicking off with a synthy score that plays like a John Carpenter tribute all the way to the pop radio hits of the era, Stranger Things is like a love note that intermingles The Goonies, E.T. and Poltergeist with the horror elements of Carrie, IT, FirestarterDreamcatcher and many many more. Somehow, Matt and Ross Duffer have created this fascinating yet mangled specimen that crosses genres and age groups with a delicate balance that will take children of the '80s back to the glory days of entertainment while giving their offspring something to latch on to also.  And yes, their influences are totally apparent and worn on their blood covered sleeves. But with this series, it's fun to try put the puzzle pieces, teasers, and easter eggs together. And truth be told, there are a lot of them to be found. 

Like a pitch perfect, mutated stepchild of all things Spielberg and King with a small helping of Carpenter mixed in, Stranger Things is the best science fiction series of 2016, and some of the most refined programming of the decade. Grabbing the reins and blending borrowed story ideas from two of the biggest creative minds in the science fiction and horror genres, the Netflix series does exactly what American Horror Story should have been doing all along. Instead of throwing too much into the pile, Stranger Things follows a strict pattern that is constantly moving the story along to its epic conclusion. Season one finds its bearings early on and never lets up, keeping a great flow from beginning to end. The show offers a succinct story that sticks to a core idea, never throwing too much at its audience, while dropping easter eggs aplomb, letting viewers know exactly where the creator's influences lie. 

I told you I'm a Pepsi kinda girl. 

Starting off with a helluva great episode one, Stranger Things dedicates just enough time to giving our main players a bit of backstory while it ramps up a ton of relevant character development over the course of the first hour. Throughout the eight episodes, more information is steadily hammered out as the story unravels into a mind blowing arc that lingers somewhere around Stephen King's IT and the science fiction tales that painted my youth.  Much like Stand By Me or The Goonies, childhood friendship takes a main focal point as the malevolent characteristics of adulthood slowly gravitate towards the surface of the show. With differing and sometimes eccentric key roles played by Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, and David Harbour, Netflix wasn't taking any chances with this series. The acting is grade A material played by excellent actors all around. 

Despite its awesome adult cast, the real stars here are the kids. The main trio of Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin all play like real life friends. During the course of the season, their friendship changes, begins to disintegrate at times, and ultimately becomes stronger due to their experiences together. Throwing Millie Bobby Brown's portrayal as Eleven into their mix just feels right as she pulls off an extremely hard role as the emotionally damaged but overly powerful centerpoint of the series. Great things are ahead for this entire cast of young actors. 

Served up on a silver platter of beautiful cinematography, perfect lighting, and tons of slow paced jump scares, the only area that Stranger Things seems to falter is in its use of CGI for the main creature. With today's technology and a newfound interest in practical effects, there should have been more time spent in developing a better looking, more physically tangible creature. These guys were trying to recapture a lost time in movie making.  So, the creature should have been a dude in a suit with computer rendering used only to add a little luster. At times, movements don't look real and it doesn't look like it exists in the same space as its victims. 

Saturday night and nothing to do except get stoned and paint letters on the wall. 

Over the course of only 8 episodes, Stranger Things swiftly sets up a new series that could become a mainstay for Netflix. In fact, this first run was so well received that talks are already underway for a Season 2 that will serve as a sequel. Initially, I thought this was meant to be an anthology series, but The Duffer Brothers have stated that Season 2 will take place in the same universe and will be a continuation of this story, potentially taking place in a different decade. If these guys can keep it up, I'll definitely be along for the ride. Season 1 gave me great joy as a general viewer but also as a long time fan of all things science fiction and horror. 

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I'm giving this show the Bloody Bullet. A perfect 10 out of 10.