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A binge-worthy nod to the '80s

click to enlarge It's OK to compare the kids of Stranger Things to the Goonies crew.
  • It's OK to compare the kids of Stranger Things to the Goonies crew.

Released just weeks ago, Netflix's newest original series Stranger Things is overflowing with classic '80s nostalgia and major nods to two of sci-fi's biggest names in film and fiction, Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. If you haven't binge-watched the eight-episode series yet, better make plans to do so soon.

After the first episode's minimalist opening credits, Stranger Things' first big throwback to the supernatural horror films of the decade it pays homage to, we meet four of its pivotal characters, a quartet of nerdy friends who are, yes, just like the gang from The Goonies. We're introduced to this science-loving group — Michael, Lucas, Will and Dustin — in the midst of an epic Dungeons & Dragons quest in small-town Anywhere, USA (the fictional Hawkins, Indiana) in 1983. Some creepy, weird shit is happening that the government doesn't want anyone — let alone some smart, meddling kids — to know about. That night on the way home from Michael's house, Will goes missing. To everyone else, he seems to vanish into thin air... and maybe he did. When the rest of the gang goes out looking for him later, they find a peculiar, almost mute girl with a shaved head who tells them her name is Eleven. She inexplicably seems to know something about Will and where he's gone, and agrees to help his three friends if she can.

Without revealing too many spoilers, the rest of the series explores how Will's family and friends — including Eleven, who also turns out to have some otherworldly powers — refuse to give up the search for him. They believe he's alive and nearby, yet just out of their reach. As stranger things literally keep happening around Hawkins, the mystery starts to unravel and the involved players realize that Will's disappearance is tied to a conspiracy that's much bigger than they ever imagined.

While so many elements of the series, created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer and produced by Shawn Levy, pay tribute to the 1980s supernatural genre, Stranger Things manages to feel fresh and nostalgic at the same time. The show boasts some standout casting, including all the kid characters, along with Will's manic, panicked mom Joyce, played by Winona Ryder. Matthew Modine is a sinister government agent, and David Harbour plays the troubled yet savvy police chief Hopper.

Once you dive into the series, everything begins to seem familiar in a weirdly déjà-vu-esque way. That's because the showrunners never let up on the references and throwbacks to all the '80s films that inspired Stranger Things; films like E.T., Alien, Stand by Me, Poltergeist, The Thing, The Goonies and many others.

Luckily for those of us who've already breezed through Season One, a second season has been confirmed and is so far planned to be a sequel to the first, investigating some of the elements that weren't explained in depth, and also introducing some new characters to the already familiar lineup.

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