Despite getting off to a slow start, Stranger Things has come out on top of the Netflix originals line up, with a dedicated fan base hotly anticipating the second season.
This season picks up in 1984, almost a year after the events of the previous season and Hawkins, Indiana seems just as 90s but not nearly so eerie. Things have settled down a bit, and the season starts slowly giving the audience time to get a feel for the characters again before the rush of drama resumes from season one’s dramatic conclusion.
Will is back in school. Mike misses Eleven. Joyce seems happy and is dating a new man Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin, Nancy is still feeling guilty over Barb and Sheriff Jim Hooper is diffusing any rumours relating to Eleven.
From the first moment the show captures all the nostalgia of the 80s with all the spooky suspense of autumn. Clothes, music, pop culture and arcade games make the show all the more realistic and haunting.
By the third episode the tempo picks up. Dustin played by Gaten Matarazzo discovers a new creature who spells trouble for the small town of Hawkins, and with Hooper hiding Eleven away in his grandfather’s secluded cabin the boys are forced to negotiate the supernatural and their social lives all on their own. Matarazzo’s acting takes centre stage, endearing you to the creature even as you fear it. His mainstay winning character acting is complimented by new talent. Sadie Sink plays Max and Dacre Montgomery plays Billy, promising uninformed foils of everyday school life for the drama to play out in front of.
One may be forgiven for imagining the return of the The Duffer Brothers’ seminal work as an homage to the likes of Stephen Spielberg, Steven King and John Hughes. They create their whole cinematic world through the contrast of the more overt horror scare tactics: the tap dripping and ominous fog with the more tender moments about the awkwardness of adolescence. But where The Duffer Brothers really excel is in the details like the excellent use of CGI where the bits of debris from the Upside Down float towards you like a 3D effect.
Without the characters, all of those effects wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. The Upside Down flashes back in vivid sequences like a trauma relived again and again. The strong friendship that binds the young protagonists together makes the labyrinthine conspiracy just as intriguing in the second season as it was in the first. What Netflix has perfected with Stranger Things isn’t just the 80s aesthetic or suspenseful music, but character building that an audience can stay invested in right-side up and upside-down.
Image: Frankie Evans @ Flickr