Dualism pervades the crunchy leaf swirled autumn of Hawkins – the fictional setting of Stranger Things. The cool and methodical detective work of a sheriff is punctuated by the irrational and anxious searching of a desperate mother. The indolent and obnoxious populism of American high school is exposed by a shy, artistic loner. The shady, secretive world of government experiments corrupted by political assassinations collides with the uncontaminated innocence and wonder of childhood.
Reality as we perceive it is disturbed by a dimension hopping, faceless terror whose origins are as mysterious as they are scary. The result is so exuberant, enjoyable and thrilling that you barely even twig that Winona Ryder is in it until half way through Episode 1.
Stranger Things feels less like a television show set in the 80s and more like a lost reel teleported from that era straight in the laps of the Duffer brothers, the show creators. Much is made of artistic ownership in the digital age and how it is supposedly “under threat” by people stealing a cord progression or character trait and moulding it into something different.
All art borrows from what has gone before and Stranger Things is no different; the show nods, winks and bows to a slew of films, television shows and novels. E.T; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; The Goonies; Heathers; Flight of the Navigator; The Twilight Zone; IT; Cocoon and countless others.
The characters, motifs and narrative structures of the show owe their genesis to that period; watching certain scenes (four children on bikes riding through twilight) is uncanny. You have seen these things before and they have never felt stranger.
Then there is the music.
As well as including a smattering of songs from the 80s (‘I wear my sunglasses at night’ by Corey Hart; ‘Africa’ by Toto; ‘Nocturnal Me’ by Echo and the Bunnymen) the action unfolds to an eerily beautiful, synth laden score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. The music has been a particular draw to an audience jonesing for more of that most dangerous of drugs: nostalgia.
The internet clamoured for an official score shortly after the show was uploaded; whilst that does not have a release date yet, people can content themselves with the knowledge that one is forthcoming along with this mixtape from DJ Yoda.
A second series feels inevitable although it would be refreshing, if somewhat frustrating, to see the show creators permit Stranger Things to stand as it is. Whilst the universe(s) in the show merit further exploration, gorging on this enchanting trough of nostalgic wonder feels wrong somehow.
Are some things, no matter how strange, better left alone?