'Stranger Things' Season 1 - TV Review

Netflix's most recent series came out on July 15, 2016. It's an eight "chapter" miniseries set in the 1980s, and it's a full on homage to the science fiction movies many of us watched as kids and teens in the 80s. We're introduced to four kids in the 10-12 range who play D&D together - and this sets the tone for them, as they think of everything as being a D&D scenario. But things really kick into gear with the disappearance of one of the kids on his bike ride home in the evening. We're introduced to his family (his mother is played by Winona Ryder, the biggest name in the production), and then the small town's police chief (David Harbour). He initially seems like an alcoholic asshole - stumbling around his filthy trailer and having booze for breakfast. But as soon as he's forced to realize that something serious is going on in his town, we find out he's a smart guy who'll work hard to fix problems. He's not really a charmer, but he sure gets the job done. The problem is, the town contains a "Department of Energy" campus that's doing some very dubious experiments. And escaping from there is a very strange young woman - the same age as our group of kids, who she meets and hides out with.

One of the references I caught to movies of the 80s was "State Trooper Dan O'Bannon" - Dan O'Bannon was one of the best known writers of SF movies in that period, having written (among others) "Alien," "Aliens," "Blue Thunder," and "Heavy Metal." Toward the end there are a few echoes of "Alien," including one that had me concerned that we'd have a chest-burster, but no. The title theme is pure 80s.

The kid actors are surprisingly good, and the acting is good all around. The story is made a bit ponderous by the homage aspects of the production, and around hour five I felt the whole thing was running too long for the content. But for the most part, it was well constructed, tense, and entertaining.

On a personal note, I was fascinated to find that most of the filming was in Jackson, Georgia. It looked awfully familiar to me, as I drove through there dozens of times when I was living in Milledgeville, Georgia for a decade - just sixty miles away from Jackson. There's a certain style to the centre of small Georgian towns ...