Have you watched Stranger Things on Netlfix? When I saw the announcement for the show starring Winona Ryder, I had my doubts. I love sci-fi but my gut told me this wouldn’t that good. But I have to say I was dead wrong.
The last notable movie I remember Winona acting in was Black Swan where she did a good job playing a bitter, heavy drinking ballerina being forced into retirement. Aside from that, I remember her portrayal of the sweet teenage girl in Tim Burton’s classic Edward Scissor hands. But really not all that much over the last decade and a half. Then there was that horrible shoplifting incident in 2001. All this to say I was not expecting much from Ms. Ryder. However, as I watched her play Joyce Byers, mother of a boy who mysteriously disappears, I witnessed a new side of Winona and developed a new respect. I have to say she does a great job combining angst (maybe from her criminal past?), neurosis, hard headedness and a disdain for towns folks who don’t believe that her missing son is trying to communicate with her through the power grid.
However, an even bigger and better surprise for the first season of the show is Matthew Modine. I never would have imagined him doing this role, because I never have seen him play characters this dark. I only remember Mr. Modine playing heroic characters like Don Francis in “And the Band Played On”, a man who tries to find a cure for AIDS, or John Scully, the business mogul in Jobs (as in Steve Jobs), or Birdy, a sweet kid with a strange obsession to fly. But in Stranger Things he does a perfect job as Dr. Martin Brenner, a twisted scientist that combines fatherly appearances with the spirit of an evil professor who doesn’t think twice about putting children in harm’s way in order to advance science. I'm telling you, you have to watch one episode if it’s only to see Dr. Brenner.
Kudos to Stranger Things for intentionally seeking out kids that don’t look like models for Seventeen and Teen Vogue. All the young actors have atypical looks which contributes to the show’s originality. I’m particularly fascinated by the girl called Eleven, played by Millie Brown. Eleven has telekinetic powers and an ability to travel into another world nicknamed the Upside Down where she meets the most bizarre monster. I absolutely love this young actress’ work - such a great presence on the screen. She can carry a scene with just her facial expressions. I think we will be seeing great things from Millie in the coming years.
While looking up the actors’ names on imdb.com, I noticed the guy who plays the monster is in the list of cast members. I thought only actors with speaking parts got listed. Maybe when the monster screams “arghh!”, that counts as dialogue? It would appear that monster roles have come a long way. When they first appeared in movies, directors just took some random guy off the set and put him in a costume. Now they get a credit. In the end, maybe monsters deserve more credit. You couldn’t have the show Stranger Things without the monster, right?
Thinking about shows like this one, I’ve been asking myself why all this fascination for horror and science fiction. The way I see it, monsters are a reflection of our dark side, of our hidden impulses that shape in a large way who we are and what we do. I think Mike Carey, the writer for X-men, sums it up the best: “We make our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about ourselves”. I got my share of monsters lurking around inside of me. Doubts and insecurities like: am I smart enough, do I look fat, do you like my outfit, will you like my writing. Every day, I battle my demons, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. I’ve noticed that if I face them and talk about them, they start losing their powers. So there's hope!
What kind of monsters do you have? And how to you deal with them?