Stranger Things: More King than Lovecraft

Stranger ThingsWe’ve watched all of the first season of Netflix Stranger Things and its clearly more Stephen King than H P Lovecraft.Season 1 of Netflix series Stranger Things is a complete story unto itself, and it has a lot to offer if, like show creator The Duffer Brothers, you pine for the 1980s. And if you do – you will love this show. They’ve even gone out of their way to include a flickery, pre-aged intro logo and some tracks that could (but don’t) sing forth from the keyboard of John Carpenter.

The short of it: a D&D playing nerd boy goes missing, a strange girl appears, and nerd boy’s buddies plan to unravel the mystery. You have a panicking single mom played by Winona Rider who uses unorthodox methods to communicate with nerd boy, and a sub-plot of high school kids that of course includes a love triangle.

As a product of the 80s, Winona Rider gets a lot of camera time as single (divorced; good moms in the 1980s didn’t have illegitimate kids) mom – there will be times when you want to slap that cigarette out of her hand and tell her to sit quietly in the La-Z Boy. But after a while you realize that no-longer young but still lovely Miss Rider transforms herself into this character so completely that you are left with a new appreciation of just how good an actress she can be.

Winona Rider in Stranger Things

In many ways, this is a mashup of Stand by Me (based on Stephen King’s The Body), E. T. and Poltergeist. But it is more than that. You also get a heady blend of Stephen King’s The Mist. Some others have mentioned The Goonies, however Stranger Things doesn’t have the extreme stereotypes and slapstick silliness – the one kid you think would be the new version of Chunk turns out to be one of the most perceptive characters. To their credit, the child actors in Stranger Things are better than The Goonies ever were.

So you ask – by mentioning The Mist – does it have Lovecraftian elements? After all, The Mist is one of the most Lovecraftian stories written by Stephen King.  It does have some of the superficial elements of Lovecraft Mythos stories, but no more than The Mist.

What impressed me the most about this show was its authenticity, as compared with the 1960s of Aquarius. Many visual elements of Stranger Things are recognizable from movies from the 1980s – we also do not see more of that than necessary for telling the story. The world of Aquarius is larger and, you see more of the 1960s in Aquarius than you see of the 1980s in Stranger Things.  However, at least once or twice in each episode of season 1 of Aquarius, a character would use a phrase or act in a certain way that was entirely alien to the era. I never experienced that watching Stranger Things.

The Duffer Brothers have made some comments about a possible Season 2, however this is Netflix so if it isn’t announced, it may not happen. But I suspect given how popular Stranger Things is, we will see a Season 2.

If you are looking for Lovecraft Mythos, you’ll get about the same amount you get from a Stephen King story. But watch it anyway as its quite good.

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