Netflix’s new series aims to reboot the 80’s as they were told by Spielberg.
1983, Hawkins, Indiana. Three geeky-kids search for their missing friend. They found some scary jumps and a girl named Eleven who is gifted with psychic abilities. After J.J. Abrams has ripped and downloaded legally or less the most of the 80’s filmography, we thought there was few left to peck for his followers or even the filmmakers of this generation. We were wrong. The mythological materials sown by Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Stephen King or Katsuhiro Otomo can be mixed up on and on the result will always be different. But with a déjà-vu sensation.
Stranger Things is not The Thing, nor E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me, Altered States, nor Akira. But it borrows to all of them. Stranger Things is made of bits from all these movies even it is mostly spielbergian and kingian. Poster, dialogs and props in the set make clear references. Stranger Thing is already a hit on Netflix machine (rated 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, warmly acclaimed in France). It works with a sympathetic cast of real teens and a more dark toned Winona Ryder – who like Matthew Modine playing a man without cigarette, roots into the 80’s.
The Stranger Things we see are not the ones the 8 episodes (like in « eighties » ?) intended to show us. It is not this faceless anthropoïd creature (or with a face like a flower or a vagina, you can discuss it with your own kids). This thing, this « It » that lurks in the dark and threatens the very life of our teenaged heroes is the growing process inducing the sexual desire. Yes, m’am. When the pretty young girl have sex with a cheap version of Cry Baby‘s Johnny Depp, her best friend, less pretty and probably body-shamed as she is physically described, is eaten alive. There is no doubt about the symbolic nature of that thing. The star of the show is called « El » for « Eleven ». This tomboy lives several states of consciousness by being alternatively a boy, a girl, and both at one time. So Stranger Things is about the dawn of sexuality seen as a monstrosity first, before being « mastered » but not without leaving the former self behind. We could say there is nothing new since Halloween or Nightmare On Elm Street. There is some « historical » mistake in the show. We have a young black character who doesn’t die even if the hero is still a cute white boy. Except Gary Coleman in Diff’rent Strokes, we do not remember the eighties were used to cast black persons in such popular blockbusters as E.T. And as said before, the ugly best friend gets killed as many second hand characters before in the history of filmmaking, except, there were no such stereotype as everyone was ugly in 1983.
In a conservative reflex, and for the sake of the CGI, the « thing » is contained in the darkness and in an underverse from where, un-understandbly, it keeps going in and out and in and out until comes an unsatisfying finale. What did you except ? We were sure there was no revolution in the writing process or content of these Stranger Things. It fits the plan the industry has for the future of entertaining : opening the gate to a hell of infinite reboots and remakes on the so called 21st century television. The taste of bloody damn nostalgia in your mouth forever.
Stranger Things. Created by Matt and Ross Duffer. Cast : Winona Ryder, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown. Photography : Tom Yves, Todd Campbell. Music : Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein. U.S.A., 2016.