Illustration of characters from Home After Dark

‘Home Before Dark’ Is the New ‘Stranger Things’

This new show owes some of its success to other '80s-inspired media. Why is it so entertaining to watch kids fight crime on their bikes?

November 27, 2021
8 mins read

Home Before Dark” proves itself to be quite similar to “Stranger Things” — which itself is a huge compliment, as the series was a game-changer for the television industry; it was arguably the first genuinely well-done Netflix original. Beforehand, most people dismissed the streaming platform’s original content. “Stranger Things,” however, caught people’s attention and encouraged them to give Netflix originals a chance, which was absolutely deserved. The show put children in control of developing the plot of a dark mystery.

Firstly, “The Goonies” must receive some credit for the concept of children independently solving a case. The group is made up of close friends, their older siblings and the siblings’ love interests — the same recipe seen in “Stranger Things.” The entirety of “The Goonies” follows this crew as they ride their bikes into a dark adventure and attempt to solve mysteries, all without adult supervision. It was incredibly influential in the 1980s, and a genuinely good kids’ film, which was hard to come by. The people who grew up watching “The Goonies” hold fond memories of the film’s premise, which perhaps explains why both children and adults adore the trope of bike-riding kids solving mysteries.

“Stranger Things” appealed to both young people as well as the older crowd that has remained partial to its nostalgic premise. This applies to “Home Before Dark” as well. While both series follow the adventures of middle-school-age children, “The Goonies” first laid the groundwork for this show to be enjoyed by anyone.

“Home Before Dark” follows Hilde Lisko, played by Brooklynn Prince. Hilde is a preteen investigative journalist. She is constantly poking her nose where she shouldn’t be, attempting to follow her latest lead: She is a force to be reckoned with. Her family has recently moved from Brooklyn to her father’s coastal hometown. Hilde’s father, a former New York reporter named Matt Lisko, suffers from the same intense fixation on unsolved cases. His obsession with a particular case costs him his job, which prompts the move back to the town in which he was raised.

Of course, there is a cold case awaiting the Liskos that will become Matt and Hilde’s latest obsession. Now that Matt is back home, he has to face a childhood traumatic event in which he witnessed his best friend’s abduction. Hilde makes this case her main priority. As she digs deeper into solving the mystery of this boy’s whereabouts, the show continues to darken the mood. In a review, Spoiler TV stated, Given Hilde’s age it would be easy to expect the episodes to have the feel of a light family drama that occasionally tackles difficult subject matter in ‘very special episodes,’ but this show goes dark. It is filled with a vibrating tension even when the mystery starts to feel as though it’s pedaling in place.”

The most important concept that connects “Home Before Dark” to “Stranger Things” is the focus on the capability of children. The adults in both of these shows seriously doubt the discoveries made by the respective gangs of children. These kids undergo trauma, relying entirely on each other. What sets these two shows apart from others is the faith that the audience has in these children; one cannot help but root for these kids wholeheartedly — they are brave heroes. The group in “Stranger Things” is made up of important, strong individuals; their young ages become secondary to their character.

Similarly, in “Home Before Dark,” Hilde is never diminished by her age. The Hollywood Reporter critic Daniel Fienberg stated, “Characters within the show may view her as cutesy or precocious, but the show just accepts that she’s a dogged badass and treats her as such.” There is something endearing about watching kids work together against all odds to conquer a force of evil.

It also must be noted that “Home Before Dark” has ‘80s vibes. Perhaps this should be credited to “The Goonies,” as it was the original ‘80s adventure film that focused on children. However, “Home Before Dark” captures the decade in a fashion that is much closer to “Stranger Things.” Both of these shows encapsulate the eerie essence that the ‘80s seemed to create easily.

This would also explain the success of horror films made in that decade; especially today, audiences feel fear for young characters who can’t reach help because they simply don’t have a cellphone. In the ‘80s, few people owned cellphones, so characters were often rendered helpless if they became lost or stranded. Similarly, current films that follow young characters in dangerous situations evoke the ’80s due to the fact that 911 cannot be called in an easy manner.

Additionally, “Home Before Dark” makes specific callbacks to the ‘80s. One character even states, “Let’s ‘Pretty in Pink’ it,” to refer to the total reconstruction of an article of clothing. This is an obvious nod to John Hughes’ “Pretty in Pink,” which was an incredibly influential 1980s movie. This quick quote proves that the creators of “Home Before Dark” were intentional in their recreation of an ’80s mood.

Another aspect of “Stranger Things” that shows up in “Home Before Dark” is the strong presence of caring parents. These children are generally outside of adult supervision in their adventures, and many adults even doubt them. However, there are parents that truly trust their children in both shows. These strong parental characters believe their kids when push comes to shove and are more than willing to defend them. This is yet another endearing aspect for the audience to enjoy.

“Home Before Dark” is a charming show. It absolutely draws from “Stranger Things” for its major themes, but it is remarkable in its own way and is definitely worth the watch. It will be interesting to see which shows in the future will draw their inspiration from “Home Before Dark.”

Trinity Crompton, Molloy College

Writer Profile

Trinity Crompton

Molloy College

Trinity is a senior at Molloy College majoring in writing and minoring in journalism. She hopes to pursue a career in fashion journalism. She loves dachshunds, platform shoes and Stephen King novels.

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