Almost immediately after its first season debuted on Netflix last summer, Stranger Things became one of the biggest pop culture obsessions of the year, impressing both devout sci-fi and horror aficionados as well as those somewhat unfamiliar with the genre.
Stranger Things reminded many genre fans of iconic films and stories from the '80s, ranging from Steven Spielberg to John Carpenter. Another huge comparison people drew from the series was how big of fans the show's creators, the Duffer brothers, clearly were of Stephen King, exploring themes of adolescence, adventure, and camaraderie through a young cast.
While some viewers were critical of the similarities to King's work, others considered the series to be a tribute to the author as opposed to a "rip off" of the famous horror author. Even King himself has professed his love for the show, specifically praising the cast's performances.
"I loved that show. The Duffer brothers have pretty much said that I was an influence on their show, so I’m not trying to pat myself on the back," King recently revealed to Yahoo! Movies. "This is something that they’ve said. But they obviously internalized the idea that the characters count."
"They also found that sweet spot in American life..."
As seen in stories like Stand By Me and IT, King has a knack for his portrayal of life in a small town and how characters band together to form a sense of companionship that lasts a lifetime.
"And they also found that sweet spot in American life, which is sort of middle class, and small town, and there’s a textured feeling to those characters," King claimed of the series. "The small-town bumbling sheriff who stands up for all the things that are good. And Winona Ryder was so goddamn good in that show as the mother. So all those things work, and the kids work."
Considering the talented cast, it's no surprise that one of the show's stars, Finn Wolfhard, is appearing in this year's adaptation of IT.
"Child actors seem a lot better than they were in my own younger days..."
In addition to the cast instantly becoming beloved icons, both on and off the screen, their work on the series was noted, having won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
"I’ve said before in various interviews — and it’s true of Tom Taylor in The Dark Tower, too — child actors seem a lot better than they were in my own younger days," King reveals. "It’s eerie how good some of them are. Finn is a terrific young actor, and he was perfect to play Ritchie [in IT]. It’s not the same character that he plays in Stranger Things, but he’s terrific. And the girl, Millie Bobby Brown, she’s terrific. She’s never really done anything before, and she just shines."
SAG isn't the only organization to recognize the series, as the first season earned itself 18 nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
"Spielberg directing a big, fat Stephen King book."
One of the show's biggest strengths is how wholly the series embraced the culture of the '80s, from the pop culture references to wardrobe to overall tone, often wearing its influences on its sleeve.
“We’re big movie nerds — that’s what we wanted to do," said Matt Duffer, describing the genesis of the show he created with his brother Ross.
"We started to get into television as it became more cinematic,” he added, Variety reports.
The brothers shared that they asked themselves, “what would be the ultimate long movie — Spielberg directing a big, fat Stephen King book. That was the dream, that was the ambition,” Ross said.
The second season of Stranger Things comes to Netflix on October 27.