OK, I don't
want to talk about Stranger Things
, per se.
(If you haven't watched it, it's a 9.2 on IMdb; the highest ever rating is 9.3, for the Shawshank Redemption. If you enjoyed the movies Super 8
or Stand by me
, the latter based on Stephen King's The Body
, or if you wish for a darker Goonies
, this may be for you. There's a boatload of references to other shows and books, most of them staples of '80s culture, and it's a good mix of spooky and surprisingly funny.)
The thing I found most interesting was this.
Do you remember how a staple in horror is that you're panicky, you fumble with your car keys and drop them, and while you pick them up, the monster / ax murderer gets you?
How the car won't start at the crucial moment?
How people don't talk to each other until it's too late, or at least until you want to shake them bodily and scream at them?
How people do daft things because they're panicked or thoughtless or, well, people?
Where when people disappear, one of the heroes gets wrongly accused for it, sidetracking the story?
Often, this is cliched, or it goes on too long and makes things annoying. Worse, it makes you think, enough with the holdup, the diversions already, tell us the story we came for.
Sure, if executed extraordinarily well, it can add to the tension, but it's hard to do.
Have you wondered what a spooky story would be like where everybody had their shit together? Where they act with a purpose and great ideas even in the face of a nervous breakdown, in situations where they have reason to question their sanity (and certainly, everybody else does)?
Where they communicate comparatively early, and thoroughly, and don't spend five episodes not believing each other
If your answer is "no", then you're either remarkably naked of curiosity, or very possibly a role-playing gamer. In role-playing games, this happens remarkably often — calm, collected problem solving while the world around the characters is on fire.
If your answer is "yes", you may want to watch Stranger Things
. ST opens with a pre-teen boy who thinks he's being chased through the night by something — something supernatural, for all he knows — so he goes to the shed and begins loading a gun. As someone who grew up with guns, I can certainly appreciate that. Later a poverty stricken woman on the verge of a breakdown refuses to just curl into a ball and cry, and instead builds a device to communicate with the beyond, with items she bummed off her boss in a mid-'80s rural Indiana supermarket. These people don't mess around.
For all that's been said about Stranger Things, the most interesting thing to me has been the fact that the show fast forwards over all and any tropes that would just drag things out. There is no procrastination in these characters, they have a job to do, and they hop to it. Compared to other shows, this makes ST positively feel like a juggernaut. (On the few occasions that there is a holdup, it is entirely justifiable and believable. The only exception from this is the main character, who starts off traumatized, distrustful, and unpracticed in the art of communicating with humans, and who could have dumped a whole lot more pertinent info on the heroes. It's kinda understandable they didn't, but that's neither here nor there, the interesting bit is this is the only
character that seems parsimonious with information largely for storytelling reasons.)
In some ways, ST seems to overshoot its mark at times — these characters are fearless
. Kids go, in some cases nigh unarmed, to a forest. At night. Looking for people who disappeared, very possibly through foul play by ax murderer, monster, or supernatural. While this seems a bit hard to believe at times, it also seems to be pretty much exactly
how most role-playing game characters would behave.
<insert clever punchline here later>+Scot Stevenson +Maximilian Kubillus