DirectorMatt & Ross Duffer, Various
Release Date(s)2016 (October 17, 2017)
Studio(s)21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre (Netflix)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: N/A
[Editor’s Note: This release is a Target retail exclusive.]
Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas are typical pre-teen boys living in tiny Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s. They love Dungeons & Dragons, playing videogames at the local arcade, and riding their bikes. But things get strange when Will disappears in the woods while riding home one night, even as a mysterious girl – known only as “Eleven” – suddenly appears in town with a shaved head and wearing a hospital gown. As Will’s older brother, mother (Winona Ryder), and friends search desperately for him, the clues all seem to lead to a nearby U.S. Government energy lab, where strange experiments are being conducted by a team headed by Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine). Before long, it’s clear that this lab, Eleven’s origins, and Will’s fate are all intertwined in a dangerous mystery that Will’s friends are determined to solve.
When Stranger Things debuted on Netflix in the summer of 2016, it took the online geek community by storm, particularly its Generation X members. The series is a curious and intriguing blend of the horror and science fiction genres that recalls a host of films of the 1980s, including Explorers, The Goonies, Stand by Me, Poltergeist, The Monster Squad, The Lost Boys, the novels (and film adaptations) of Stephen King, and pretty much every B-horror film of the decade. The series’ young cast were all virtual unknowns, but they’re instantly recognizable and relatable to anyone who crew up in that era. The show is a nostalgic throwback and yet manages to feel fresh too, by turns creepy, curious, and even touching. Most of all, it excels at the creation of edgy atmosphere even in familiar and mundane environments; an unsettled mood pervades every episode. This, along with the cast’s charisma, helps to carry the narrative forward even when it feels a tad muddled. Above all else, Stranger Things is just a helluva lot of fun. It’s the TV equivalent of a can of Pringles or a bag of Cheetos, and that’s meant in the best way possible. This is an incredibly binge-worthy viewing experience and you’re sure to enjoy every minute.
Netflix’s self-produced Blu-ray release includes all 8 episodes of the first season in their original 2.00:1 aspect ratio, as seen in the streaming release. The episodes are uncut and presented in 1080p HD. The image is very good looking on the whole, with crisp detail, nicely refined texturing, and rich, accurate colors. The contrast can be a little bit wanting at times, with the deepest shadows occasionally looking a tad gray, but the overall image quality here is quite nice and certainly a step up from the streaming presentation. Audio is available in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. The soundstage is medium-wide up front with excellent dialogue clarity, though the surround channels are mostly engaged for subtle atmospheric cues save for key dramatic sequences.
The only “extras” included on the actual discs are preview trailers for Stranger Things: Season 2 (which debuts imminently on Netflix) as well as Marvel’s The Defenders. Unfortunately, viewing these is mandatory – you can’t skip right to the menus. The package does also include the full season in SD on a pair of DVD discs, and there’s a collectible poster included too. The actual packaging is quite clever, reproducing the look of a vintage 1980s (if oversized) VHS rental release of the series, complete with faux shelf wear, faded artwork, and stickers on the box.
It’s odd that Netflix would choose to make this a retail-exclusive release, but give them credit for at least making Stranger Things available on Blu-ray Disc at all. One does wonder if this title will go into wide BD release eventually. In the meantime, if you’re a diehard fan, get yourself to Target and pick up a copy while you can. There’s no better way to refresh your memory of the series’ charms before diving into Season 2 this Halloween weekend... at which time you can bet that our butts will be just as numb as your own. Enjoy!
- Bill Hunt