Stranger Things had me hooked from the opening scene of the first episode. When I first saw Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will sitting in Mike’s basement I was reminded of my own childhood.
Like the boys, I spent countless hours playing games in my cousin’s basement. His basement had light wood paneling and a stone floor that I always thought looked like the Flintstones house. It also had a bar, which I thought was odd, but really freaking cool. Thinking back on it we used to wrestle down there on that floor and we all had our fair share of bumps, bruises and scrapes. Good times.
For me, the scenes with the boys seemed all too familiar. I envied their super serious (silly) arguments about things like monsters and girls. I was reminded of a simpler time in my life when my biggest concerns were things like being rejected by a crush or having nothing to do on a Friday night, instead of job security and overdraft fees.
Another all too familiar scenario was my friends leaving so I could eat dinner with my family every night. My mom always offered for them to stay, but if I were them I would have also declined. We ate a lot of old school Italian foods like Pasta Fagioli, Ciambotta (vegetable stew) and Escarole and Bean soup.
I unfortunately also remember the tacky clothes, which probably had a lot to do with the constant rejection from my crushes. I consistently wore hand me down sweatpants I got from my gigantic younger cousin, dirty Adidas Sambas and a NY Mets hat which hid a horrific haircut.
After I finished binge watching the entire first season of Stranger Things, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I enjoyed this show so much. Was it the nostalgia from that part of my life being that it’s set in 1983?
Yes, in part, but it was more complex than that.
I’ve never been a huge fan of horror movies, but I unconditionally love Stephen King movies. Stephen King’s It, Misery, The Shining, Cujo and Maximum Overdrive are some of my favorites of all time. When I was a kid I loved watching King’s movies in a dimly lit room after presumably everyone was asleep. Throughout his films I would contemplate turning them off for fear that I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night, but the excitement was overwhelming.
After I finished watching these movies, no matter how many times I had seen them, I would have the daunting task of reminding myself over and over again that none of it was real until I eventually passed out in my bed.
I believe that Stranger Things recreated this exact experience from my childhood and it completely sucked me in.
The show is unique and has a contemporary feel, but it is reminiscent of a movie or a show that I would have watched twenty years ago when I was a kid. The Duffer brothers, also having been born in the 1980’s, do a great job at paying homage to horror moves from the 80’s. 80’s and early 90’s horror flicks are easily distinguishable from the horror movies today. Back then there was less gore and more of a fear factor, which I loved. I loved the suspense and anxiety created by these films.
The fear of being trapped in a diner in the middle of nowhere with questionable occupants, while trucks, buses and cars menacingly circle like sharks waiting to feed. King masterfully created the anxiety and terror of people being menaced by a psychotic or a supernatural being. The Duffer brothers honed in on this theme and ran with it.
While watching Stranger Things I found myself having the same anxiety, enjoyment and wonderment as I did when I was a kid. I felt like I was watching the series through the eyes of my 12 year old self late at night in my dimly lit living room after everyone was asleep. I sat there in the middle of my couch; legs folded reliving my childhood.
Similar to the Upside Down, Stranger Things took me to an alternate world and I couldn’t get enough of it. Memories of my corny clothes, the smell of wood paneling and shag carpet, crock pot meals and feeling like me and my friends lived in a completely different universe than our parents was all too relevant.
I cannot wait for season 2 to be released, which will mostly likely happen next summer. Until then, I’ll just have to stick with my Stephen King movie collection and I can always re-watch season 1 of Stranger Things.