“Something is coming…something hungry for blood.”
As all good writers do, The Duffer Brothers allow the first 5 minutes of their cinematic masterpiece, Stranger Things, to tease and foreshadow the entire story ahead. Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) sit playing Dungeons and Dragons (just like in E.T). We hear Mike’s first line of dialogue – off-screen – setting the scene and hinting at the arrival of a blood thirsty monster (like Jaws) that they like to call “the demogorgon”.
The Netflix Original, 80s, Sci-Fi Horror was written and directed by The Duffer Brothers with Tim Ives (Dp, Mr. Robot S1E1) as DP and originally titled ‘Montauk’. Ives shot the show on the Red Epic Dragon using Leica’s Summicron-C lenses in 6K down scaled to 4k with a layer of grain added in post. The brothers did audition to direct the upcoming 2017 remake of Stephen King’s ‘IT’ (that will now be co-incidentally staring Finn Wolfhard) but were turned away leading them onto Stranger Things. Just as Will, Dustin and Lucas are leaving Mike’s house on their bikes, Will turns to Mike and discloses that he rolled a 7 leaving Will with his final words “The demogorgon, it got me.” as the garage light lets out a slight foreshadowing flicker.
The series is beautifully intertwined with 80’s Sci-Fi references with a clear inspiration from E.T, very nostalgic for some. The eerie title sequence follows a classic synth heavy score similar to John Carpenter’s Halloween score. It’s safe to say that the brothers are big fans of Stephen King (who inspired their use of the ITC Benguiat font with his book covers) and so when Stephen King himself started tweeted about the show, the brothers were over joyed and thought that “it was insane”.
STRANGER THINGS is pure fun. A+. Don't miss it. Winona Ryder shines.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 18, 2016
We’re then introduced to, our unlikely hero, Chief Hopper (David Harbour) passed out on a worn out sofa aside beer cans, cigarettes and the sound of last night’s TV. A montage sequence depicts hopper preparing for another day at the Hawkins Police station before he rush’s out the door. The camera slowly pans down to the TV where the news reporter is warning viewers “In other news you may want to stay home tonight-“ as he slams the door in a rush.
We’re then met with a scene between Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) and Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), the mother and brother of missing kid Will Byers realizing for the first time that Will is gone. Jonathan’s focused on making breakfast, scrambled eggs on toast with a glass of milk, while Joyce frantically searches the house. The show was originally rejected 15-20 times by various networks due to there being multiple child actors as leads however Carmen Cuba (casting for ST) was still able to find five incredible child actors after auditioning 1213 kids. It’s said that the 5 kids talked through a group chat before production to get to know each other and it’s estimated that the show has been seen by over 8.2m viewers in just 16 days which makes Stranger Things Netflix’s 3rd biggest show (as of 2016) surpassing Fincher’s House of Cards and sitting just below Fuller House (13m) and Orange Is The New Black (13m).
Joyce eventually meets with Chief Hopper who seems reluctant to help however over the course of the series becomes more and more interested into the case especially after discovering that ‘Will’s dead body’ was stuffed with cotton. Hopper’s story line was left on a cliff hanger at the end of Season 1 as he stepped into a dark unmarked vehicle alone like he was when we first saw him. This isn’t to say that his character hasn’t been through a huge transformation since saving Will Byers’ life who for Hopper, symbolised his dead daughter (Theory: Some theorise that Hopper is El’s real father).
Mike’s older sister Nancy, 16, has just started dating classic cool kid, Steve Harrington. Her story follows her journey of maturity as she comes to the realisation that the cool kids she so desperately wanted to hang with are actually just plain horrible. Nancy teams up with Jonathan Byers (which causing controversy with Steve) to fight the tulip head monster and save Will. Steve eventually follows order and ditches his bully friends. Episode one comes to an end with Mike, Dustin and Lucas bumping to a crop shaved and scared looking girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) or as they called her ‘El’. I’d like to theorise that their teacher is actually a bad guy. I’d like to think that their teacher is actually the demogorgan. I got into contact with Randy Havens who plays Mr. Clarke on the show who said that he wouldn’t mind playing the demogorgan.
Through out the course of the story we discover that El has escaped from a government facility that is harnessing her abilities to listen in on Russian conversations however El comes into contact with the “tulip monster” during her sensory deprivation tasks which causes a worm hole to rip open inside the lab allowing it to leave the ‘upside down’ world, a dark parallel universe. Eventually El sacrifices herself to destroy the monster she brought into the world however it’s been heavily theorized that Eleven is actually the monster. However El isn’t gone, El will make a return in season 2 to most likely complete the love story arc between herself and Mike. Towards the end of the show we saw the supposed death of Dr Brenner however it has now been confirmed that Dr Brenner is still alive (see image below). As the show ends we see Will coughing up a yellow spotted slug hinting that Will is still connected to the upside down world and that the story isn’t over just yet.
Unlike other shows that Netflix have produced, this is one of those shows that they’ve not put a lot of advertising/marketing into most likely due to their prediction of it’s easy success. A Stranger Things title card generator and alphabet wall gif maker was created to promote the show alongside a virtual reality experience where you can explore the Byers’ family house. They also pranked the cast with a fake interview and gave the test audience an in real life experience for the Netflix YouTube channel. Netflix also released the first 8 minutes onto YouTube for free to entice viewers in.