‘Stranger Things’ delightfully frightens audiences

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‘Stranger Things’ delightfully frightens audiences

Netflix

Netflix

Netflix

Netflix

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Stranger things are happening in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. As more mysteries unravel after the disappearance of Will Byers, it takes a gang of three middle-school boys, the local police chief, a distraught mother, and an odd little girl to uncover the truth.

Written and directed by the Duffer brothers, this hit sci-fi drama premiered on Netflix in July of this year, though viewers would think they’ve rather stepped into a time machine. Stranger Things takes place in a small, Indiana town in 1983, and the ’80s vibe is prevalent. But of course the show would take after the ’80s setup; the Duffer brothers were influenced at a young age by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and John Carpenter.

Elements are also visible from writer H.P. Lovecraft and the popular tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons. The main monster resembles something straight from Lovecraftian horror, and the kids debut playing D&D, fighting off the dreaded Demogorgon. The gang even nicknames the other world of the monster as the Upside Down. It’s said in the show to resemble “The Vale of Shadows,” which is based on D&D’s Shadowfell/the Plane of Shadow:

“The Vale of Shadows is a dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, a [place] with monsters. It is right next to you and you don’t even see it.”

References to nerd-culture of past and present fill the show, like the green flames of Chris Perkins—a famous Dungeon Master and current creative director for Wizards of the Coast—or The Thing making a cameo on a character’s television.

Somehow, the incorporation of references and the evident passion for works of the 80s makes Stranger Things endearing. The Duffer brothers’ childhoods revolved around these icons, so to see that love play out in such a gripping show is sure to hook you. You may even find yourself feeling inexplicable nostalgia for an era you might have missed. That’s just a side-effect of the show—along with a case of the jitters.

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The scariest part of Stranger Things is in its expert use of psychological terror. There isn’t a physical threat that’s always visible; it’s what you don’t see that’s terrifying, a tactic mastered throughout the series. Fear comes from the audience’s own mind due to characters’ paranoia and perception of events. Each episode leaves you rethinking what you thought you knew.

Onscreen, the relationships are nothing game-changing for the world of supernatural television. Eleven, one of the main female protagonists, falls prey to a flat characterization at times. Her actions often appear more plot-convenient than anything. Despite this, though, the interactions between characters prove realistic and captivating so that the cliches can be easily overlooked.

Overall, Stranger Things is worthy of a positive review. The likable characters and quirky story make it a show to savor, and with a second season in the making, the hype will hopefully live on.

“Stranger Things” is rated TV-14 due to violence, some profanity, and allusions to sex, though all are handled in a PG-13 manner.

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