Stranger Things: Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
July 16, 2016 3:36 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

In a laboratory run by the U.S. Department of Energy, a Scientist is taken by an unseen force. Will Byers, a young boy goes missing after witnessing a strange creature on his bike ride home. After Will goes missing, a young girl appears at a restaurant wearing a hospital gown and shaved head. After running away from the restaurant, Lucas, Mike and Dustin, Will's friends, find her in the woods during a storm.
posted by Fizz (58 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I absolutely loved this first episode. Just the right amount of weird and mystery that had me craving for more. I was a bit worried that this show might be setting up too many mysteries and not enough answers. But having watched a few other episodes, I did not find that to be too much of an issue.
posted by Fizz at 3:43 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Haven't seen the show, but that episode synopsis is like the first chapter of a Dean Koontz novel. Is that an accurate comparison?
posted by infinitewindow at 5:51 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can't speak to the Koontz question, but we're four episodes in here and I'm pretty impressed by how much better it is than it needed to be.

One does sometimes wish that Winona Ryder would take it down a couple notches, though.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:11 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

I love the font they chose for the title card - seems like the same font as in on all my classic 80s Stephen King novels, very fitting for the show setting/theme.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:03 PM on July 16, 2016 [31 favorites]

One does sometimes wish that Winona Ryder would take it down a couple notches, though.

Actually, that was one element that I loved. It felt very honest. Losing someone you love (a child specifically), I can imagine that this kind of a loss is something that drives a person into the depths of depression/madness. We can talk more specifically about the Christmas lights in the next FanFare episode discussion. That sequence was beautifully shot.
posted by Fizz at 7:19 PM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]

I loved everything about this (including that font!). ET meets Firestarter with bonus kraken.

Did people say 'douchebag' in 1983? It feels like a later insult to me but I was pretty young then.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:19 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Douchebag was definitely in the eastern US white pre-teen lexicon by then. One thing that stood out to me was Steve's "chill" as a bare verb (as in Netflix and chill, as opposed to telling someone to chill out). That seems far more recent.
posted by mubba at 8:49 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

Infinitewindow: not a Koontz expert, but it did remind me, in tone and approach, of an early one I read, the one with the golden retriever and the baboon-igator?

If you'd enjoy Freaks and Geeks meets Firestarter, with a pinch of Silent Hill, you'll have a good time with this.

There are a couple anachronisms - 'pervert' yes, but 'stalker' I think not; and I'm not sure you could buy a telephone retail in 1983 Indiana yet. But not so many you'd really notice, and they're made up for by touches like the math teacher who obviously has a Fangoria subscription, and props that were on your own kitchen table if you're of a certain age.
posted by bartleby at 9:25 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

I like the way the show is shaping up after a few epsiodes. It's definitely got my interest.

When I heard it was set in the 80s I expected the setting to be the source of much winking at the audience and camp. I'm really glad they didn't go that way.

Millie Bobby Brown is a legit actor.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:27 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The series seems to be going for a 2016 version of an 80s Spielberg/Steven King vibe, and I'm very much on board with it.
posted by figurant at 11:34 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

and they're made up for by touches...

"Stalker" seemed dubious to me too. I think my favorite touch was the croquet set in the car port.
posted by nom de poop at 12:24 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure you could buy a telephone retail in 1983 Indiana yet

ditto for dialing 911.

most of the 80s stuff is really just skin deep. it really shows with the teen sex subplot, and it's a problem because that's obviously such a huge part of 80s horror tropes
posted by at 3:14 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

"chill" as a bare verb

"Chill, dude" was common language in my high school (Utah, class of '87).
posted by mmoncur at 3:15 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

911 existed, but yeah, Joyce would have had to get a new phone from the phone company.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:22 AM on July 17, 2016

Great start!

'Stalker' definitely existed. I know. I had one in 1983 (creepy but not traumatic, for the record) 'Douchebag' too - I remember using the word before I even knew what it was.

Wasn't Winona Ryder really involved in the search for a missing girl from her hometown? I'm wondering if she brought any of that experience to her character here. I've been avoiding reading interviews, because I am enjoying the mysteries so far and want zero spoilers.
posted by kanewai at 6:46 AM on July 17, 2016

I think you could buy telephones in 1983 (1 2). Mike's family probably would have owned one of those cordless ones with the antenna that bend so easily it wasn't my fault
posted by nom de poop at 7:08 AM on July 17, 2016 [22 favorites]

Fizz, are you planning on posting more episode threads, or are they up for grabs? I watched episode 2 last night, not sure how far I'll get today (just home doing laundry this morning, but hoping to get myself out later to make it to a Ghostbusters showing), but I don't really feel like binging my way through without episode threads, it will all blur together.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:22 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

oh yeah!, I just made posts for up until episode 5. Got to run to work, feel free to add the rest if you like. Cheers.
posted by Fizz at 10:14 AM on July 17, 2016

One thing I noticed right away is that this takes a lot of the teen / kid centered action adventures of the 80s (actually, both, since both the Middle and High school generations get a chance at mystery solving action in this one) and really makes it a lot more realistic. Like the nerdy middle school heroes in this one feel like my own group of friends as a somewhat nerdy middleschooler. The threat of violence from bullies is a lot more real, but also the own in-group antagonism feels much more realistic. Bullies are bad, but your own friends can be worse, sometimes. I also liked the sort of low-level desperation in the Byer family. The clothes are a little out of date, the house is all fake wood paneling, and Winona Ryder does a great job of selling a harried working mother. All of those details (in addition to the lush production values and the compelling mystery storyline that mashes up AKIRA, Stephen King, and Spielberg) are what initially sold me on the series and lead me to binge watch it.
posted by codacorolla at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

I'm about halfway through and so far it just seems like a mishmash of a lot of 80s movies with nothing particularly original in the mix. It's fun but I was hoping they could take all of that stuff and elevate it to another level. And Winona Ryder, whom I'm happy to see on screen again, is giving me bad memories of Dracula.
posted by cazoo at 10:56 AM on July 17, 2016

Haven't seen the show, but that episode synopsis is like the first chapter of a Dean Koontz novel. Is that an accurate comparison?

No, no - it's missing the cop/former army/marine guy angle.

I am enjoying it. Thanks for getting it started here, Fizz.

The 'cool" kids are just the right amount of 80's-asshole. And I like that Lucas is the only character with a lick of common sense.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 3:58 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know it's hard to do, but i wish people would stick to just discussing the episode at hand.

I agree that so far I am not impressed by Winona Ryder. The kids are all great so far, definitely an 80's Spielberg vibe there.

I also agree that Watchers, the 1987 Dean Koontz thriller about the super intelligent dog is the first thing that popped into my head when the kid was in the shed.

I hope Steve Harrington gets offed pretty quick, he's a date rapist and needs to be zorched by the creature.

The family dynamic around the dinner table was also pure 80's. Clueless dad: " Wha'd I do???"

enjoyable so far.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:49 PM on July 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

OHenryPacey, I didn't read Steve Harrington as a date rapist. Could you expand on that? Though maybe that's something for another episode?
posted by dysh at 5:46 AM on July 18, 2016

I understand OHenryPacey's reaction - this first episode certainly sets up Steve as the stereotypical 'cool jock tricking/pressuring the shy bookish/unpopular girl into sex' character. Whether that impression is right belongs in future threads though.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:36 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

My reaction is purely to his advances to her in the bathroom scene, where he seemed to try to trap her there physically after she had repeatedly tried to break away and get to class, and then again in her room, just icked me out. I have since watched one additional episode, and can see that perhaps they are setting up the relationship differently, but I am still not convinced.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:23 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would like to take a minute to appreciate Dustin, who has the most hilariously pragmatic dialogue, saying almost word-for-word the stuff many of us are screaming in our heads whenever intrepid kid heroes go on dangerous quests:
Guys, I really think we should turn back... I'm just being realistic... Did you ever think Will went missing because he ran into something bad? And we're going to the exact same spot where he was last seen? And we have no weapons or anything... I'm just saying: does that seem smart to you?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:25 AM on July 18, 2016 [62 favorites]

This is the best show I've seen in a long, long time. Pitched perfectly, atmosphere-wise. I'm very impressed.
posted by naju at 2:25 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is, by far, the Winon-iest we've seen Winona in a long time. I think it mostly works here.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:58 PM on July 19, 2016

The opening D&D scene was the most D&D adventure that ever D&D'd. (Especially losing the d20 and finding it on the floor and NOT rerolling because that IS the roll! Because INTEGRITY.)
posted by BrashTech at 8:28 AM on July 25, 2016 [27 favorites]

The comparison to Dean Koontz's The Watchers is interesting. Both involve people/animals escaping from a secret government lab and super natural powers. Seems like that has been a relatively common trope over the years.
posted by ShakeyJake at 9:55 AM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think Winona Ryder has been absolutely fantastic in this. Struck a lot of really familiar chords for me, having seen my own mother completely overwhelmed trying to make ends meet, working long hours and having kids at home. Things were not good to a divorced single mother in the 80s. A few scenes of hers have made me a bit uncomfortable remembering what life was like back then, she has it spot-on IMO.
posted by Hoopo at 9:14 AM on July 27, 2016 [14 favorites]

Also - regarding the comments about not being able to buy a phone retail - is that right? You couldn't buy one in the early 80s in the USA? So what, you could only get them from the phone company or something?
posted by Hoopo at 10:59 AM on July 27, 2016

Back when AT&T was a monopoly, they strictly prohibited use of phones they did not manufacture themselves. As their monopoly started to be picked apart, that fell apart, as customers started to do it anyway. By the time this show is set in, AT&T had been broken up and people could very easily buy phones in all kinds of stores from any manufacturer they liked.

If anything, the innaccuracy isn't that Joyce was able to buy a phone from somewhere other than the phone company. It's that the phone sold at the store seemed to be a standard Western Electric model like the phone company would have issued, when really, the ones she would have seen in the store would have been cheaper plastic options.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:44 PM on July 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm very proud of myself for waiting until the end of the episode before shouting, "Jesus, Will! Demogorgon has fucking fire resistance! Pull your head out of your ass!"

It can be hard to be a gamer watching television, sometimes.

Also, I may be wrong about this because I'm not that familiar with 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons, but I believe that a fireball should be resolved by Michael (as the Dungeon Master) rolling a saving throw for Demogorgon, rather than Will rolling for effect.

:: Pushes glasses up. ::
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2016 [15 favorites]

Log entry, 31 July 2016: watched first episode of Stranger Things, thought show was a perfect digestif to having just finished Twin Peaks, remembered I was an abject wuss who gets spooked by anything with so much as a silhouette faintly outlined, felt the warm glow of seeing well-realised tightly-knit tween friendships, went hogwild for the synth-heavy score, watched second episode of Stranger Things immediately
posted by Collaterly Sisters at 6:32 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Finally catching up with this and am liking it but I feel like the '80s movie references are a little heavy handed. Not every kid had a classic horror film poster on his wall. On the other hand, they do get the look and feel of that era down pretty well.
posted by octothorpe at 6:35 PM on July 31, 2016

The music is amazing, analog synths galore with a deep Carpenter vibe. The band is called S U R V I V E. For me, this show would be much less awesome with a lesser group doing sound.

I really dug the spooky shot where Will peaks out the window and sees the creature. I would have loved more of that.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:54 PM on July 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this is the place to put this but DJ Yoda has put together a mixtape inspired by Stranger Things (and the things that inspired it).
posted by jontyjago at 12:35 PM on August 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Clearly the monster wanted Will to gain his time travel powers. How else would he get a threadless headset and 9T driver for his bicycle, BMX innovations that didn't show up until the early 90's at the earliest.
posted by morganw at 11:35 AM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Turns out they did attempt to avoid anachronistic bikes, but they were some of the hardest props to create. Nice to know they really tried. They also managed to keep the chainring (which might be only 25T) on Will's bike out of most shots or obscured by a chain guard. The other bikes, which we get a better look at, look mostly period-correct.
posted by morganw at 11:45 AM on August 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think that this is probably the best evocation of Stephen King's work not actually written by him; the scenes with Will vanishing and the town searching for him reminded me very much of the similar scene early in 'Salem's Lot.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:15 AM on August 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

Okay. So Millie Brown played a little girl possessed by a ghost in Intruders, a BBC America drama that to my surprise has FanFare posts (although they start at episode 3??).

Anyway, Brown is by far the best part of the show, which suffers terribly from nobudgetitis and Vancouver Syndrome. I'm told the book on which the show is based is better if that's your thing.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:35 PM on August 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I watched the first two episodes of Intruders and--while I distinctly recall being impressed with young Millie Brown--I couldn't have told you two minutes after the closing credits what in the holy hell the thing was about. I remember thinking, "Am I a stupid person? Is that what this is? I don't understand any of this."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:19 PM on August 10, 2016

I love the fonts and the decor. The wallpaper alone was outstanding.
I have only watched this one so far and it was just at my tolerance level for horror. Does the series get creepier/gorier from here out?
posted by bq at 9:00 AM on August 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Does the series get creepier/gorier from here out?

I can't remember anymore what was shown in episode 1 - there are definitely some creepier/gorier sequences in later episodes, but not horrendously so, I don't think.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:41 PM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

bk - been trying to think of a way to expand my answer without getting into spoiler territory. Maybe if you list a few shows/movies that were past your tolerance level by comparison people could chime in? I'm not a huge horror buff myself, but I think one of the reasons Stranger Things worked for me is the nostalgia effect of harkening back to the 1980s which is when I did see a lot of iconic horror films (Poltergeist, The Thing, Alien, American Werewolf in London, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.). So although there are some eeeeeeeeeaaaaargh disturbing scenes in this show, overall it reminded me of thrill of watching scary movies with friends at a sleepover, not the sort of "I wish I could unsee that" feeling I might get watching something modern.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:12 AM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

All of those films would be too scary.
posted by bq at 9:25 AM on August 13, 2016

bq, it sounds like you and I have similar tolerance for horror and this show hit the sweet spot for me. Like oh yeah! says, it is a thriller in the good sense, not a 'pass the brain bleach' modern gorefest.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:16 AM on August 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I finally started watching this. WHOAH. Good stuff, here.

And, yeah, if you showed me the art they use on the netflix link and told me it was the cover art for an early/mid-80's Stephen King short story anthology, I would not hesitate to believe it.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:50 AM on August 21, 2016

Also, the title music and other bits of instrumental soundtrack sound like something John Carpenter wrote for one of his early/mid 80's movies. Well done, soundtrack folks!
posted by rmd1023 at 7:52 AM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding that Steve gave me and my wife strong "creeper" vibes. He's an older guy (he took chemistry before her, and he doesn't seem like an over-achiever if he got a C-), and he's known as a "cool guy" who gets with girls. Nancy said "Was this your plan all along? To... to get in my room and then... get another notch on your belt.... I'm not Laurie, or Amy, or Becky." And then there's the fact he's continuously pressuring her to go farther. Ick.

Nancy is a nice mix of a smart girl who is cute and wants to be popular, and is taken by the boy. Barb is awesome, but those mom jeans aren't a good look on anyone.

The nerd squad is adorable! Really, all the characters are great in this - even Hooper gets fleshed out as a father who lost his daughter, not just a sheriff of a small town who is comfortable with nothing ever happening.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

And the music:
posted by filthy light thief at 8:19 AM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Late to the party, but oh golly this was good.
posted by schmod at 9:48 PM on November 21, 2016

"Jesus, Will! Demogorgon has fucking fire resistance! Pull your head out of your ass!"

Demogorgon was perfect. High school kids playing D&D wouldn't have such an unbalanced enemy--an unkillable demon lord--just randomly jump out at a party of characters fighting troglodytes. But paging through the manuals and picking out the biggest, scariest monsters and the most amazing powerful magic items and just putting all of them in your first dungeon is totally the way I was playing D&D in middle school in the 80s.
posted by straight at 9:08 PM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

So Hopper is actually an ok investigator.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:09 PM on May 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

So Hopper is actually an ok investigator.

Thinking back, I'm amazed they made the grizzled, cantankerous, alcoholic cop with a heart of gold trope work so well and seem fresh. David Harbour did good work.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:42 PM on May 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

The opening D&D scene was the most D&D adventure that ever D&D'd.

My wife turned to me and asked "so is this what your D&D is like?". I replied, "no, when you're all aged 30 to 50, it's a lot slower. A lot slower."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:10 AM on May 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

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