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15 Aug 2016

Home Video Review: Netflix's 'Stranger Things' Pays Tribute to Vintage Spielberg, King While Standing on Its Own

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Winona Ryder in Stranger Things. Winona Ryder in Stranger Things.

The Duffer brothers are definitely tipping their figurative hats with numerous homages in with their enjoyable Netflix series, Stranger Things: These boys definitely like their late ’70s-early ’80s Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter.

Yeah, Spielberg has gotten his share of tributes before (most notably from J.J. Abrams and his mediocre Super 8, and Jeff Nichols with his awesome Midnight Special). Here, Matt and Ross Duffer have managed to pay homage to a lot of people and films without making their enterprise feel like a ripoff.

Yep, that’s Winona Ryder front and center as Joyce, a mom freaking out after her son disappears and starts talking to her through lamps and walls (shades of Poltergeist). Neighborhood kids band together and hop on their bicycles to find their friend (shades of E.T.) while the local sheriff tries to put the puzzle together (and he’s got Indy’s fedora).

There’s some sort of homage in nearly every frame of this series, to go along with opening credits and a soundtrack reminiscent of John Carpenter. Thankfully, the story stands on its own, and remains intense up until the final showdown between a Stephen King-inspired monster and a Stephen King-inspired telepathic girl (played by excellent newcomer Millie Bobby Brown).

Some of the references are a little too obvious (somebody is reading Cujo at one point), but most of them work well and contribute to the fun.

I’m curious to see if the saga will continue—and whether it will include a scary clown at some point.

Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix.

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