I didn’t know any of this when I, at the instance of a co-worker, started into the series. All I knew was that it was “sci-fi” and “my kind of thing.” I watched the first episode. Less than 48 hours later I had, despite being busy with work and life and everything else, watched all 8 episodes.
It was fantastic.
The atmosphere is perfect, hailing back to horror movies and pop culture of the early 80s – and some of the not-so-pop culture, including all the wonderful Dungeons and Dragons references and parallels. The songs they used were period correct, the score straight from the synthesizers of the time, and the clothes and hair just as regrettable as everyone remembers.
The way they treat is genius. It makes a sound, a buzz or a click, even when it shouldn’t. It draws attention to itself, ramping up tension from something as simple as the flip of a switch of the flicker from the Christmas decorations.
The plot is tight, compelling, and full of the right mix of anticipation and surprise. The sense of time passing, the ticking bomb, weighs heavy through each episode. The stakes are clear, the sense of threat unmistakable. The evil, in all the forms it appears in the story, is perfect and perfectly detestable.
I loved almost all the characters. There is no one there who doesn’t need to be in the story, no extraneous dialogue. Most characters knocked down the archetypes, and even the ones who were a bit stereotypical had enough against-the-grain qualities to feel fresh.
This is a story full of heroes of every type. Hopper is full of punchy goodness, but he’s smart and observant. Joyce is always on the edge of losing herself, but she doesn’t let that stop her from looking for her son, or being kind to those in need. The three boys are a pack of little squabbling geniuses who know how dangerous their actions are, but don’t question whether their actions are right. Nancy and Jonathan are the perfect mismatched pair. And then there’s Eleven, who is tough as nails but simultaneously vulnerable.
Dustin is my role model.
The elements of supernatural horror are masterfully rendered. The monster largely seen in glimpses or momentary flashes of light, and what we do see fills us with a sense of wrongness. The Upsidedown is saturated with pollen and cob-web-like signs of decay, and gloom clings to everything in it.
Normally I dislike horror shows, but this one is brilliant. If you haven’t seen it, and if you can stomach tension and a bit of macabre, check out Stranger Things!