By Mike Perry
There isn’t much to be said for the latest Netflix Original Series, Stranger Things that hasn’t already become a cliché. This is one of those shows that everybody has been buzzing about, from the brilliant 80s-inspired set pieces to the kitschy cinematography and the innumerable homages to nostalgic tech and toys.
If you haven’t watched it yet (and you really should have by now), here’s a brief recap. Small town boy in early 1980s suburbia goes missing. Search parties ensue. The missing boy’s friends team up to try and find him against the wishes of their parents. They meet a strange young girl with incredible powers who warns them about bad men and monsters. A mother’s grief and a geeky older brother’s isolation drive the emotion as the search becomes more and more desperate. Strange things happen as yet another person goes missing. Meanwhile, 1980s high school goes on as usual, with all of the cliques and cruel harshness that teenagers can deliver. Strange alliances form as everybody tries to solve the mystery, resulting in a kick ass climax that you’ll have to see to believe.
Without spoiling anything, that’s about as much as can be said for the series. As mentioned, this will not be a recap, but more so a look at all of the incredible influences that Stranger Things borrows from to create this brilliant little hybrid of a show. In no particular order, here are the top five awesome inspirations that the creators combined to make this awesome new Netflix Original Series. If you haven’t seen them, you NEED to check them out!
If you love Stranger Things, you will love The Twilight Zone
Borrowing from the genius writing of Rod Serling in ways that almost any successful science fiction teleplay must, Stranger Things has all of the tropes that make for a great Twilight Zone marathon. A child with strange mental powers calls to mind Anthony Freemont in ‘It’s a Good Life.’ The paranoid middle school aged boys wondering who the real monster is and the paranoia that it creates echoes ‘The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.’ Even the very idea that a dimension where everything is similar, but just different enough to be horrifying exists is heavily inspired by the entire premise of The Twilight Zone.
If you loved Stranger Things, you will love Freaks and Geeks
From Winona Ryder playing a role that is essentially a hybrid of Kim Kelly’s blue-collar, almost white trash mother Cookie on Freaks and Geeks and Lindsay Weir’s caring yet still flawed mother Jean to the Dungeons and Dragons playing middle school troupe of the dorky but loveable Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will and the quotidian school bullies who torment them day in and day out, this is an ensemble cast that works perfectly to capture the temporal and geographical setting of the show. The brilliant Natalie Dyer (who is going to be a monumentally huge star in short order) plays Nancy, the Lindsay Weir of the series, stuck between pretty, popular girl and social outcast. The eclectic cast and the character dynamics that play off of one another in such a way that all of us can relate to everyone in some way is what evokes that same hard to explain feeling that you get when you watch Freaks and Geeks.
If you loved Stranger Things, you will love 1980s Steven Spielberg movies
If there is one word to describe the cinematography, set design, pacing, and overall story arc of Stranger Things, it’s Spielbergian. The entire series feels like a nod to the fine works of the apex of the master filmmaker’s career, most of which were set entirely in 1980s America. From the creepy but warm vibe of Close Encounters of the Third Kind to the obvious influence of The Goonies, it is obvious (but not so much that it feels like you’re being beaten over the head with it) that creators Matt and Ross Duffer were huge Spielberg fans. Oh, and there’s also the whole narrative where a young boy hides a strange, alien-like creature with limited ability to communicate or understand our world from his parents and the adult world at-large.
If you loved Stranger Things, you will love Twin Peaks
Missing teenager in a small, insular town where seemingly nothing ever happens. Check. A small town cop competing with another agency which has asserted its authority. Check. Characters just peculiar enough that you’re never quite sure who you can really trust. Check. An alternate world where nothing is quite as it seems (think the red room on steroids). Check. From the claustrophobic feel of the town of Hawkins to the brilliant casting and character development that makes you suspicious of even the most obvious of the good guys, Stranger Things is just weird enough that the influence of David Lynch’s television masterpiece is evident throughout.
If you loved Stranger Things, you will love Earthbound
Following the established lead of beloved RPG games before it such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, Earthbound (Mother in Japan) twisted the genre in a fresh new way. This SNES role playing game changed all the rules. Gone were the erstwhile fantasy worlds and Medieval settings, replaced with a modern, American backdrop. Instead of gallant knights fighting dragons, Earthbound introduced us to our first real taste of kid heroes in gaming. In fact, there were four of them. Ness, an average American kid, was joined by Paula, a young girl with psychic powers, Jeff, a techno whiz kid who could fix just about anything, and Poo, a strange visitor from a far away land who also possessed the aforementioned mental abilities. There’s even a bit of a love story between Ness and Paula. This is echoed throughout Stranger Things, as Mike and the mysterious Eleven (“Elle” for short) join their friends on their journey.
If you simple watched the show and have never heard of any of these, you absolutely need to check them out! We’ve made it really easy for you to find everythign in one convenient place, so click on over and discover (or re-discover) these classics today!
Check out our review on YouTube! (Spoilers!)