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TV Review: Stranger Things 1.1 “Chapter One: The Vanishing Of Will Byers”
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Stranger Things
Episode 1.1 “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”
Written & Directed by The Duffer Brothers
Created by The Duffer Brothers
Starring Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, David Harbour, Natalia Dyer, Cara Buono, Millie Bobby Brown, Winona Ryder, Charlie Heaton, Matthew Modine, Joe Keery, John Reynolds, Joe Chrest
Netflix
Air date: Friday, July 15, 2016

First off, my Facebook feed is blowing up with rave reviews from friends and critics, and even Stephen King publicly celebrated Netflix’s latest original series, Stranger Things. Before the opening credits even roll, I am totally transfixed, flooded with all the movies it reminds me of already. Goonies, Stand By Me, Explorers, E.T., Stephen King’s IT… the list goes on. In one 8-minute introduction, we know everything we need to know about what is happening and who the characters are.

Spoilers below.

In Hawkins, Indiana, on the evening of November 6th, 1983 something gets loose at a Department of Energy facility. We meet four young boys playing a 10-hour game of D&D with no end in sight. They banter like the game really means something because when you’re a pre-teen, board games matter! There is a once cool, now too old to be bothered older sister. The honest kid, Will (Noah Schnapp) confesses that the dice roll led to his demise at the hands of a Demi-Gorgon. On his bike ride home he swerves off the road to avoid a dark figure. The figure, making menacing sounds, tracks him to his home, and soon, Will Byers has disappeared.

Frantic mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) goes to file a missing persons report, and is told by hungover Chief Hopper (David Harbour) that 99/100 times a kid goes missing they are with a parent (her ex) or a relative. “What about that one time?” she asks. Soon the police are at school interviewing the other three friends: Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin). The kids are phenomenal in this, and they are the best part of the pilot episode. Again, akin to many of the 80’s classics mentioned above, the movies were built on strong performances from the youth leads.

Hopper and the other police find Will’s bicycle and take it home. He searches the shed where Will disappeared and you can tell he feels something there. A search party is called, and Will’s three friends all sneak out to conduct their own investigation. Back at the Dept. of Energy, Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) shows up and the scientists put on full outbreak gear to search the facility where the… thing escaped in the intro. There, we find a gigantic pulsating monster (reminiscent of the scene on LB-426 in Aliens), and questions about where “she” went. At the same time, a young, scared and hungry girl (Millie Bobby Brown) shows up at a diner. The owner is nice to her, feeds her, and calls child services. Of course when they show up, it’s actually the scientists, who then kill the owner and chase the girl out. She has telekinetic abilities and is able to use them to escape.

Episode One began with the disappearance of one young child, and ends with the finding of another as the boys stumble onto the girl in the woods. This show gave me all the feels. I immediately had the nostalgia vibe kick in, taking me back to some of my favorite stories from my childhood. As a parent I nearly wept with Winona Ryder and her older son, a really good Charlie Heaton. And when the episode ended, I absolutely couldn’t wait to click “Play Episode 2.” My friend, Chris D’Onofrio, had the single best description of this show and I promised, if I liked the show, to shamelessly steal it and use it in my review. So here it is (thanks Chris), “So let’s pretend… in 1984, a Stephen King story was adapted into a 8-episode miniseries. It was directed by Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter did the music, and you just somehow missed it for all these years… Now go and enjoy.” Better words I could not have said.

Stranger Things is on Netflix right now.

Video

Stranger Things – Premiere Event – Netflix [HD]


The cast of Stranger Things experiences unexpected thrills at the immersive red carpet premiere.

A love letter to the supernatural classics of the 80’s, Stranger Things is the story of a young boy who vanishes into thin air. As friends, family and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl.

Stranger Things stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Natalia Dyer, Cara Buono, Charlie Heaton, and Matthew Modine.

Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer (Wayward Pines, Hidden) serve as writer, directors and co-showrunners of the series, and are executive producers along with Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen via their 21 Laps entertainment banner (The Spectacular Now, Night At The Museum, Real Steel, Date Night). Shawn Levy also serves as director. Stranger Things is a Netflix original series.

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