What a terrific, terrific show this is.

Netflix’s horror-drama series “Stranger Things” has been the sleeper hit of the summer, overtaking “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix’s previous golden goose) in popularity within a week of its July 15 release. Written and directed by the heretofore little-known Matt and Ross Duffer, “Stranger Things” has become an instant classic, with fans clamoring for more.

It’s the kind of show with a superficially tidy premise, easily described in a neat two or three sentences. (Shadowy government lab accidentally releases Something Bad. A kid goes missing, and we spend the season looking for him.) Or you can choose to describe it based on atmosphere rather than plot. (Think of it as Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” meets Stephen King’s “It.”).

Whether it’s the tense creature-feature plot or the ‘80s-nostalgia style that appeals to you, “Stranger Things” doesn’t disappoint. It delivers in a whole host of ways—strong writing, fantastic visuals, and, perhaps most of all, great acting. Newcomers Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, and Gaten Matarazzo are simultaneously the heart of the show and its comic relief, as the Dungeons & Dragons–playing, Star Wars–referencing cadre of middle school nerds looking for their missing friend. Winona Ryder (“Heathers,” “Edward Scissorhands”) delivers a harrowing performance as the mother of the missing kid, alongside David Harbour’s gruff and hard-boiled police chief.

It doesn’t hurt that the characters they’re playing are all intensely imagined and honest. Ryder’s Joyce Byers is the embattled working-class mom we’re used to seeing in shows like “Malcolm in the Middle,” but she’s not played for laughs. She’s played true-to-life, and the same goes for the rest of the characters on the show.

Another of the show’s strengths, and probably one of the main reasons for its success, lies in good, old-fashioned nostalgia. “Stranger Things” has ‘80s horror and science fiction in its DNA, and the show is built on layer upon layer of references to the film landscape of that time. Think “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” with its constant call-backs to the original Star Wars film—except “Stranger Things” does it better. Crucially, everything fits into the landscape of the show itself—it never feels like a grab for fanboy attention. Much to its credit, “Stranger Things” subverts some of the most cliché moments. If you watch the show, keep your eyes peeled in episode seven for a bike chase that mirrors “E.T.” … up to a point, that is.

“Stranger Things” is a show that can’t be recommended highly enough. There’s enough suspense, angst, and truth in Hawkins, Indiana to keep any and all viewers happy, even beyond a paltry eight episodes. Although a second season hasn’t been officially announced, the Duffer brothers have hinted at a follow-up season that would delve into the mysteries left unanswered in season one. For fans of the show, next July can’t get here fast enough.



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