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BACK TO THE RADICAL EIGHTIES WITH STRANGER THINGS

The Magical 80's Aura Owns STRANGER THINGS Year: 2016
It's been since LOST that a show used a particularly jolting, ominous sound – like the wisp of a train roaring through a tunnel – each and every time yet another piece of an endless jigsaw puzzle are suddenly revealed...

Will be careful with this teaser/review since STRANGER THINGS (made by and shown on Netflix) is one of those shows where spoilers can occur even when hinting at the mere possibility of one: The time is the 1980's with a techno score reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's treatment for RISKY BUSINESS (mentioned in one scene not long before a theater marquee promotes Tom Cruise's followup vehicle ALL THE RIGHT MOVES) – plus there's an assortment of iconic songs, from Corey Hart to The Clash, providing captivating nostalgia to "The Regan Era," which is now what the 50's and 60's were back then: a platform for limitless adventure...

Iconic young hobo strut from STAND BY ME
The most important pop culture item showcased is the role-playing D&D aka Dungeons and Dragons game, bookending the hobby turned vice of four (soon down to three) pre-teen boys who jam on bicycles throughout a rural backwoods town like E.T.: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL...

Or trudging along railroad tracks, in this case hoping to not find a dead body ala STAND BY ME; and THE GOONIES comparison is a no-brainer, especially with a token fat kid (which can also work for STAND... but this boy, who at one point spouts a modern term, "Just Sayin'", is more an endearing mascot like Chunk than a goaded underdog): Most important, the STRANGER universe is extremely (and intentionally) reminiscent of Steven Spielberg cinema...

Familiar track walking on STRANGER
Since the main plot's missing kid – friend of the intrepid youngsters and son of frantic young mom/first-billed star Winona Ryder – has a JAWS poster in his bedroom, perhaps that film's director took a different artistic route, retired early or died before creating the kind of magical world that someone in this town would have to connect and compare onto their own harsh realities...

And especially POLTERGEIST as Ryder gets in touch with what could be her son, channelled through the house itself – not inside a television set (her dying rabbit-eared Zenith hardly even works) but an assortment of Christmas Tree lights along with a makeshift 'Ouija Board' on the wall that randomly stretches-out the antagonist's looming shape liken to 1985's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

Heather O'Rourke in Spielberg's produced-by POLTERGEIST
The action flows smoothly along with the mystery, and, despite being personally grabbed-into full binge mode at the end of Chapter 3, this addicting serial, featuring another 80's staple in VISION QUEST actor Matthew Modine as a metronomic Government Agent, centers on the paranormal and, along with young bullies, jerk jocks and lost virginity, is a retro-soaked show about kids without being entirely geared for them: Buried lead David Harbour, as the local sheriff with a tragic backstory in step with Ryder's present reality, has all the ingredients of a resourceful tough & tender adult hero while a few female characters... including Ryder and the mother of two of the main kids, the youngest reminiscent of E.T.'s Elliott  as he hides an important "alien aka foreign being" with object-lifting powers... embodies the progressive "strong as any dad" elements of Spielberg Moms like Dee Wallace and Ryder's GEIST template, JoBeth Williams – only far more independent.

SCORE: ****
A show "totally" recommended for fans of the "twist around each and every corner" high-octane science-fiction motif, nostalgia buffs and/or reposeful veteran/survivors of the 1980's, and just about anyone yearning for a well-paced thrill-fest despite an overboard barrage of last-minute CGI that's much too common and overused at this point: Going against an important cinematic element that early Spielberg and George Lucas had to make up for from not having limitless money by using an implied, less-is-more structure by keeping pivotal monstrosities cloaked, clandestine and ambiguous: Thankfully, most of STRANGER THINGS is a perfectly meticulous, plot-building build-up.
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