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Friday, May 24, 2024
With its jarring balance of spook and charm, "Stranger things" was the hottest summer Netflix binge. 

With its jarring balance of spook and charm, "Stranger things" was the hottest summer Netflix binge. 

'Stranger Things' relevantly harnesses '80s sci-fi aesthetics

Summer is at an end, school has just begun and Madison students are finally beginning to wake from what I call the “Summer Netflix Coma.” This common, transmissible condition begins when students are finished with finals and face the sudden urge to drop everything, slip into a Snuggie and binge watch their favorite show that has been absent from their lives since the first round of exams hit. This summer’s contagion seems to be the breakout Netflix Original Series “Stranger Things.”

“Stranger Things” is the perfect summer nostalgia trip. The series, created by the Duffer Brothers, is a loving testament to a retro science-fiction era of film. Set in the ‘80s, it revolves around a group of young, small-town protagonists who accidentally come across the otherworldly and face off against sinister evil from another dimension dubbed “The Upside Down.” The brave crew become involved in its intriguing mystery and find themselves to be the only ones capable of saving their town, let alone the world, because adults just don’t get it. This common formula from the past is a welcome addition to our Netflix queues and our lives because there aren’t many well-executed family adventure films

anymore. The fact that it is in the form of a bingeable Netflix show makes for an even better viewing experience. With only eight episodes, the petite first season is perfectly paced and bingeable. With only eight episodes to commit your time to, trust me, it’s worth it.

“Stranger Things” unspools like a rich vinyl record that oozes ‘80s. It masters the specific tone and quality from flicks that cinephiles have been itching to revisit. The music choices honor the past with favorites such as “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Africa,” further immersing you into its genre. The score, composed by electronic band Survive, sets the tone of the show with its pulsing, mechanic and layered rhythms. Each scene is filled with winks and nudges to the genre’s predecessors, predominantly “ET” and “The X-Files.” Eggos replace Reese’s Pieces as the iconic product placement, and there are more abnormal children with bleeding noses in the woods.

Winona Ryder plays a grieving mother desperately searching for answers after her son inexplicably disappears. “Stranger Things” seems to be the perfect platform to relaunch her career after her long, infamous hiatus from Hollywood. She is the queen of campy nostalgia, and her acting is superb, her powerful performance propelling the show along.

The series features many fresh faces, most notably the child characters. It is easy to be engrossed in rooting for a clan that exemplifies the same nerdy spunk as found in the classic “Freaks and Geeks” series. The character of Eleven, in particular, exhibits a deep emotional range as a lost, “gifted” outcast that is quickly initiated and bonded with the squad. Her traumatic past is revealed to be an integral part of the mystery and a piece of the heart-rending emotional core of the series.

The rare gift “Stranger Things” gives us is a show that offers variety within its bite-sized sea- son. Some moments are endearing and light-hearted, while other moments are deeply emotional, disturbing and genuinely scary. The winning ingredient of “Stranger Things,” when think ing holistically, is the character relationships. Beyond the bizarre sci-fi monster chases and devious government conspiracies, there is a note of sincerity that honors the importance of friends and family when facing the strange.

Did you binge “Stranger Things” during your “Summer Netflix Coma?” What do you think made the show such a success? Let Ben know at arts@dailycardinal.com.

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