Why ‘Stranger Things’ is a Masterclass in Setting the Right Tone

Here's how 'Stranger Things' conveys its genre-blend in its pitch deck, in the script, and on the screen.
Stranger Things Tone

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video about how Stranger Things clearly and efficiently sets the tone.

Nothing compares to a good cold open. After all, you only get one chance at a good first impression.

For my money, Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator contains one of the greatest cold opens in horror history. With enticing haste, Gordon introduces the film’s (titular) mad-scientist, his enthusiasm for reanimating corpses, and the delightfully macabre consequences of doing so.

The idol-stealing introduction in Raiders of the Lost Ark also springs to mind. Like the very best cold opens, Raiders doesn’t just introduce you to narrative thrusts and characters; it sets a tone. In Indy’s case: a throwback to 1930s cliffhanger serials spiced up with Steven Spielberg’s characteristic playfulness.

Speaking of the ’80s, let’s talk about the tone of Stranger Things. Set at the intersection of supernatural horror and 1980s adventure films, the show’s tone is a balancing act, one that needed to be communicated clearly from the jump.

The video essay below details how the Duffer brothers set the tone in the show’s inaugural episode. It looks at the show’s pitch deck (a visualization tool that acts as a sales pitch) and dives into the episode’s first three scenes: a hallway chase that registers as pure horror, a Dungeons & Dragons game that evokes ’80s nostalgia, and a monster encounter in a tool shed that straddles the line between both of those worlds.

Watch “Stranger Things—Setting the Tone“:

Who made this?

This genre breakdown comes courtesy of Lessons From The Screenplay, which is a consistently insightful video essay channel created and run by Michael Tucker. Lessons From The Screenplay focuses on analyzing movie scripts to determine exactly how films tell effective stories. You can check out Lessons From The Screenplay’s YouTube channel here. And you can follow Tucker on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields: Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.