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‘Stranger Things’ captures eyes and hearts

Netflix portrays retro in a captivating modern light

Rachel Halmrast, Editor-in-Chief
Originally published November 15, 2016

“Stranger Things” (2016)

★★★★

For those who didn’t live through the ‘80s, Netflix Original “Stranger Things” is a perfect time capsule. It seamlessly combines the coming-of-age narrative of “The Goonies,” the teenage drama of “Sixteen Candles,” and the tacky-but-nevertheless unnerving action of “Poltergeist,” with inventive writing and character design.

The show follows several different plot lines, but they are all centered around the disappearance of Will Byers, a twelve-year-old played by Noah Schnapp. After Will vanishes on his way home one night, his three best friends, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, and Caleb McLaughlin), along with his mother, brother, and the town’s hardened sheriff set out to find him.

While out on a midnight search, the band of preteens stumble upon a mysterious girl called Eleven (her only identification is an “11” tattooed on her wrist) played by Millie Bobby Brown. Along with her striking buzzcut, Eleven possesses telekinetic abilities, and a haunting past that is slowly pieced together in flashbacks throughout the eight episodes.

Every character in the show has a unique and distinctly eighties aesthetic, but Eleven’s is perhaps the most visually impressive. Her shaved head is obviously an eye-catcher, and adds to her almost alien look, but still manages to suit her incredibly well. Although Brown has a total of about three spoken lines, her intense facial expressions make up for her limited dialogue. The twelve-year-old has a way of connecting to her audience that few can achieve in a lifetime.

Although the vast majority of the faces on the show were new to me, the only recognizable actor gave the only unenjoyable performance. Winona Ryder began her career in the late ‘80s, and found her niche as the quirky teenage drama queen. However, in “Stranger Things” she assumes the role of a hyperactive and constantly hysterical mother of two, which is a shocking challenge to our fond memories of her. Her frantic overacting may have been acceptable in 1988, but in this modern masterpiece, she sticks out like a sore thumb.

However, Ryder’s performance in no way diminishes the show as a whole. It’s a beautifully crafted work with brilliant writing, design, and casting. I fell in love with every character one by one, and there were even times when I managed to appreciate Ryder’s breathlessness.

Somehow achieving the impossible, “Stranger Things” pays flawless homage to the past, while leaving its audience feeling refreshed and excited for more. Come season two next summer, we’ll all be back under the covers and on the edge of our seats.

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‘Stranger Things’ captures eyes and hearts