'Stranger Things' Has An Eerie Premise

by Caitlin Flynn

If you love creepy, supernatural TV shows, you'll want to clear your weekend schedule because Netflix's new series Stranger Things begins streaming on July 15 and it looks like the perfect show to marathon. (I'll probably need to sleep with my lights on, but it's a small price to pay.) The eight-episode freshman season stars Winona Ryder and the showrunners are Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer. Although it's the first series created by the 32-year-old twin brothers, the Duffers have experience with supernatural mysteries — they collaborated in 2015 to write and produce several episodes of Wayward Pines. As fans of the horror genre know, sometimes the scariest movies and shows are inspired by actual events — so naturally I have to ask if Stranger Things is based on a true story?

First, let's look at the official synopsis from Netflix:

A love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation, Stranger Things is set in 1983 Indiana, where a young boy vanishes into thin air. As friends, family and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl.

Based on the plot description, the show will have a little bit of everything, from mystery to sci-fi to government conspiracies. But, one thing it won't include is any elements that are based on a true story. Rather, the show's storyline and style are inspired by the 1980s classics that the Duffer brothers watched growing up. (That's comforting, but I'll still need to sleep with the lights on.)

It's no secret that nostalgia for the '80s and '90s is at an all-time high — TV shows like Full House and The X-Files returned for revivals that were largely successful despite mixed reviews from critics and audiences. But, because it's an entirely new series, Stranger Things has the opportunity to make its own mark in the modern-day TV landscape and give us some serious throwback feels by paying homage to some of the best, creepiest films of the '80s.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Ross Duffer explained that the show's concept comes from what they love about Stephen Spielberg movies and Stephen King novels — what happens when "very ordinary people, whether it’s family or whatnot, [come] into contact with something extraordinary." With this in mind, they preferred to make a TV series rather than a film because it would allow time for in-depth character development and plenty of scares. It's set in the '80s for reasons beyond the nostalgia factor — in the same interview, the brothers noted that a lot of conspiracy theories existed during that time and they lent themselves well to the plot. Plus, there's the creepy element of parents being unable to reach their kids as easily as they can today because there were no cell phones.

In an interview with The News & Observer, Matt Duffer described Tim Burton as the pair's "first director obsession" due to his ability to create a visual aesthetic that set his movies apart from other films they watched. They were thrilled when Winona Ryder, who starred in multiple Burton movies, was available to play the lead role in Stranger Things. Her onscreen presence alone will undoubtedly evoke the nostalgic feel the Duffers want to convey — Ryder starred in Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands as a teenager and they remain two of her most famous roles.

But, although the series draws inspiration from the likes of Spielberg and King, The Hollywood Reporter notes that Stranger Things has way more going for it than nostalgia. The series is influenced by prominent pop culture and conspiracy theories of the '80s, but it will still feel original and be full of surprises.

Images: Netflix (3)