Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Boxset Binge on The Blogging DJ, where I view and review a whole season of a TV show in one go. In today’s post I am looking at a show tinged with mystery and horror that has been captivating audiences in recent years, Stranger Things. Here are my thoughts on the first season of this hit show.
One aspect I majorly love about this show is that it is set in the early 1980s, giving an aesthetic that feels familiar yet refreshed by modern cinematography. The period also links in well with the secondary plot regarding a portal covered up by a secret government group, linking to a lot of conspiracy theory films of that period. It also removes a lot of contemporary technology from the picture, making a lot of the characters more helpless when the other-worldly creature is coming for them. The fact that the central family aren’t particularly well off so crude lighting is used, making those scenes even creepier. I hope they expand on the potential of this setting and period in future seasons of the show.
This monster in question is mostly unrevealed until halfway through the season, firstly being off screen but an imminent threat and then only getting glimpses of it when the jump scares occur. This was a very good tactic that allows the creature to be as mysterious and terrifying as possible, especially when lighting was low or in dream sequences. I only wish that writers stuck to their guns with this decision, as they inexplicably unmask the creature at the halfway point to use as a strange cliffhanger that is immediately resolved. From that point onward, the jump scares become more obvious and thus the quality of the horror drops; The Blair Witch Project highlighted how terrifying the prospect of a monster is that stays unseen throughout.
The acting is one of the biggest strengths of Stranger Things. Winona Ryder is magnetic in the role of Joyce, as the show follows her journey to discover the truth about the disappearance of her son. She displays the full range of emotions and constantly feels like she is on the edge of a breakdown, though viewers can’t be sure if this is just down to the disappearance. In terms of realism, she is the one who pops off the screen the most and feels the most relatable, highlighting her star quality. But equally as good is newcomer Millie Bobby Brown as the tormented Eleven, a girl who has been pushed to the edge by the government agency whilst they develop her ‘powers’. She is practically mute, save a few words, for the majority of the episodes, yet the actress is so expressive that she can relay a spectrum of emotion with just one glance. She has a bright future ahead of her.
The pacing is generally good, save from the strange cliffhanger mentioned above and for quite a lot of the finale. In the latter, the narrative follows three strands as Joyce and the Sheriff search in the other dimension for her son, a group of teenagers face off against the monster in Joyce’s house in the present day, whilst a group of younger children try to protect Eleven from the government forces. With the latter group, they are the suggested protagonists as a lot of the narrative follows their relationship with the mysterious Eleven and how they figure out the truth, except they are pushed aside for the majority of this episode, before the action is stuffed in right at the end to make up for it. I believe that ambition is a good thing but sometimes too much can happen in a short space of time, rather than well-paced as the season in general has been.
Overall, the first season of Stranger Things was compelling, scary and well-written. It was arguably stronger in the first few episodes when the threat hadn’t been revealed and the emotional impact a presumed death has on their loved ones was explored in great and emotional detail. The closing moments left many questions that I can’t wait to answer when I view and review season two in a future edition of Boxset Binge. As always, if you have any recommendations then please comment down below and I’ll see all of you very soon!
Star Rating: ★★★★☆