Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stranger Things on Netflix - a word to the bad guy

One of the great delights of parenting is sharing your personal predilections with your offspring. I'm lucky, blessed and flattered that I have "something" to share with all my lads. And the real thrill is how much more knowledgeable and better at the things I like they are; to pick a few - football, geography and, as I discovered at the weekend, film criticism.

So, the youngest and I sat down and binged on Stranger Things on Netflix over the weekend. It's a masterclass in tributes and "Easter eggs" to so many threads and genres. Small town America teen films, either romances or horror films, dark conspiracies, the supernatural, even Winona Ryder herself. It shouldn't work, but it does. There's a piece here in the NME that lists the references.

But it's Matthew Modine's depiction of the creepy CIA scientist that stood out for me. In one of those performances where the presence is far more dominant than his screen time suggests, he casts not so much a brooding shadow, but leaves his bad smell of incompetent menace everywhere, not least in the flashbacks of Eleven, the tortured child.

As I've reached the ripe old age of 50 I've seen the different types of bad guy come and go - mafia, Soviets, Nazis, despots, Colombian drug lords and now the one almost guaranteed to get a loud boo from the stalls, a government conspirator. Even though I wholly sign up to the cock-up theory over conspiracy every time, it's a reassuring anchor in any modern thriller. That said, over the last year I've quietly plodded through most of the Jack Reacher books. Lee Child has an uncanny talent for creating even more unpredictable and curious villains, the predictability is Reacher's way of dealing with them.

But unpredictability was never part of the Stranger Things playbook, increasingly we are given a nod to all that we know, whether it's true or not.

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