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“Stranger Things,” the new sci-fi horror series on Netflix, is a cool summer treat. It’s spooky but not scary, escapist but not empty. It’s a genre throwback to simpler times, with heroes, villains, and monsters. Yet it’s also haunting, and has a rare respect for both adult grief and childhood suffering. It’s an original.
This may seem like peculiar praise for a show that is explicitly a pastiche of eighties pop culture, a TV box made of movie memories. The show’s creators, the brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, who are in their thirties, are like baby Tarantinos, but, rather than pulp thrillers or spaghetti Westerns, they’re obsessed with Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. The neon-red title sequence could be ripped from a paperback of “Cujo.” The story, about a little boy who gets tugged into an alternate reality, includes visual references to “E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “Altered States.” There’s a superpowered girl, straight out of “Firestarter.” Goo pours down walls, as in “The Amityville Horror.” A gang of kids fights evil, just like in “Stand by Me.”