This is the second of two trailers for the upcoming Netflix series Stranger Things. It’s the more uplifting, heartstring-plucking trailer of the two, and it’s easy to see why critics are calling the show a perfectly pitched slice of Spielbergana, in the vein of Close Encounters and E.T. This retooling of Spielberg tropes (which we also saw in J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 and Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special) actually seems somewhat oddly timed, considering that Steven Spielberg himself had an actual movie open in theaters two weekends ago that nobody wanted to see.
Stranger Things, at the very least, looks like it gets a lot of that ’80s small-town-America throwback stuff dead on, from the fashion to the hi-fi sets to the kids riding bikes and playing Dungeons & Dragons. The first trailer (see it here) plays up the spookier elements of its story of a child gone missing, and it makes me think of some of the less explicitly horror-oriented writing of Stephen King. In fact, the makers of the show, the Duffer brothers (Hidden), supposedly had all the kids audition with scenes from Stand By Me.
One of the things these trailers has me most interested in is the return of the long-lost Winona Ryder. Okay, that’s not totally fair—Ryder was in Show Me a Hero last year, and she had relatively recent stints in Black Swan and a pretty good BBC thriller called Turks and Caicos. But it feels like Ryder's been out of the picture for a really long time, and finding her in this is a little like when her Heathers costar Christian Slater popped up on Mr. Robot, reminding us how much we all liked him in the first place. We got to know Ryder and Slater as pretty young things who were always terrific to watch onscreen, but when their expiration dates as above-the-line movie stars passed, they seemed to vanish into the Hollywood ether, perhaps unfairly so.
Ryder’s scene here cuts close to the bone. Her unhinged, wide-eyed quality reminds me of a particular type of nervous parent that I remember very specifically growing up. And the rest of the trailer, too, has its fingers pushing on some very specific nostalgia pressure points. Even that title font looks like it's ripped from the cover of any number of Stephen King books. The show’s gotten generally favorable reviews so far, although some critics suggest it might be a little empty behind its visual specificity, which is more or less the same problem I had with Super 8.
Eight episodes of Stranger Things go up on Netflix this Friday, July 15, comprising the first season. I don’t know if it’s a self-contained story or only the first chapter in things to come, but either way, I’m game to check it out. It's not Steven Spielberg directing a Stephen King story (god, how great would that be?), but it's probably as close as we're gonna get.