There has been a Netflix television series titled Stranger Things it was described as being inspired by Wes Craven, Stephen King, John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg as an Eighties kid I was super excited here was a TV show inspired by the stuff I grew up with, the stuff I still love.
Unfortunately Stranger Things was, in my humble opinion at least, very disappointing, in fact I retitled the series Fucking Awful and forced myself, endured torture, watching all eight episodes. I won’t be daft enough to watch a second season.
There were lots of things I found disappointing about the series, and a few things I found annoying, and all those things are the result of bad writing, now I’m no writer I don’t get paid to write to create fictional tales but if I was as bad at my job as writers are at their job I’d get the sack, somehow bad writers (and everyone seems to be a bad writer these days) don’t lose their jobs. The entertainment industry a law unto itself, it seems.
For me with Stranger Things I should have gave a damn about the characters, but I didn’t, and the reason I didn’t is because there wasn’t enough time spent developing them as characters if you go watch a Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg movie from the Eighties you’ll find yourself immersed in the characters you’ll get to understand a little bit about them maybe find out what stuff they like or don’t like, for example in Raiders of the Lost Ark we know Indy hates snakes minutes into the story.
In a Stephen King novel chapter after chapter develops the relationships between the characters it’s perfectly fine in King’s IT for young George to die, his death sets up the entire story, but in Stranger Things Will Byers doesn’t die somehow he survives being snatched by a monster, he manages to evade and hide from the monster, he manages to survive in a hostile environment, an environment others enter wearing protective gear with a breathing apparatus because the atmosphere is toxic, and young Will manages to survive for longer than a week (unless time moves slower in the Upside Down) without food or water.
The series should have made me care about the characters and it could have done so by spending an entire episode with Will, the first episode plotting out his character, how he and his friends are bullied and ignored at school, his relationship with his mom and his older brother, the show tried to do so via flash backs but for me they didn’t work. Also unfolding in this first episode would have been quick introductions to the other characters, making them seem real, and near the end of the episode the monster of the Upside Down could have been revealed and it’s abduction of Will made because of him having cut himself in an accident. The monster later in the series is revealed to be drawn to blood, although in the monsters homeworld it seemed it was the only living thing so why it would be drawn to blood in our world wasn’t established.
If we, the viewer, had spent more time with the characters we the viewer might have actually cared about the characters, Barbara for example was a throwaway character but we could, perhaps should, have seen her in the Upside Down with Will, and maybe her death could have come when the pair where confronted by the monster and she sacrificed herself to allow Will to run and hide. Wouldn’t that have been more fulfilling? Random deaths, meaningless deaths, of characters is all well and good but only if that character is an established part of the story, a main character, secondary, or in Barbara’s case tertiary, characters death should be more heartfelt make you wish you’d been able to spend more time with them.
The show wanted to be about the abduction of Will Byers and the strange things happening in the town of Hawkins, but the strange things weren’t really connected to the town as a whole, also the series tried to be the tale of Eleven, a young girl used as a weapon, MKUltra or some such conspiracy tale, though she seemed to have been a lab experiment all of her life she stumbled in her ability to communicate almost as though talking was alien to her, she had never been allowed to watch TV and she had virtually no knowledge of food, which made me wonder how she’d been fed and cared for.
It was nice to see Matthew Modine again, and then immediately disappointing to realise he couldn’t act.
You know what would have been a better tale than this sort of rip-off of JJ Abrams Super 8? A Monster Squad TV show, either set in the Eighties featuring a group of kids battling Universal’s monsters or a series set in the here and now featuring the main character from the show a loser stoner bloke in his thirties who suddenly becomes aware the monsters are back, either in the town from the original movie or somewhere new and it’s up to him and his loser stoner friends to save the world.
Both could work, and both would be far more interesting to me than Stranger Things turned out to be. As a fan of Eighties movies, comic books, music and horror novels, which I still watch, listen to and read today, I feel like I was promised something I should have enjoyed but instead was given something poorly conceived and realised.