Monday, August 15, 2016

Stranger Things review: Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers

So, everyone's been talking about a new thing. A new, strange thing. (gedditgeddit) So I decided to jump on the rapidly passing bandwagon to see what it was all about.

As I've said elsewhere, timing is one of the most important aspects of horror. And Chapter 1 does it well. The very first scene, a man fleeing from something, hits every note perfectly. The camera pans between the man and the long, dark hallway over and over. You're waiting for something to appear, and the anticipation is built up just enough.

So now, we have one plot going. We know there's a monster of some kind out there. So when we get introduced to our characters, we know they're going to be affected in some way.

Here is where we get the other draw of Stranger Things. In a way, it's a love letter to 80s horror, a combination of Stephen King and The Goonies. The four main characters are four boys that love to play D&D and are accosted by the rather stereotypical bullies at school. So far, the boys don't have very strong characteristics that set them apart from the usual "80s nerd" type.

When Will is taken (per the title), his mother goes to the sheriff, who is kind of like a permanently drunk Ron Swanson if he decided to become a cop. However, all they find is Will's bicycle out in the woods. Later, the family gets a strange phone call with breathing and distortion. This whole time, you have investigators in hazmat suits wandering through the building from the beginning, looking for the monster (and finding an oozing pod thing); and also looking for a "her".

Who is "her"? A little girl in a hospital gown and a buzzed head arrives at a diner. The owner catches her trying to steal, and gives her some food while trying to get answers out of her. But she barely talks and refers to herself as "11". When "Child Protective Services" arrives, she pulls a Carrie and runs away.

So the first episode not only sets up a scary plot, it also sets us up with five zillion questions that probably won't be properly answered for a long time.

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