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Netflix fantasy has 'Stranger Things' vibes

Has Netflix found the “Key” to recreating the “Stranger Things” phenomenon? Not quite, but the streaming service has come close. 

In  new supernatural series “Locke & Key,” Netflix nearly rips itself off in an attempt to find a new hit (although the comics “Key” is based on arrived long before “Stranger”). A story of three kids, a creepy old house, magic keys and a demonic but beautiful woman out to cause them harm, “Locke” (now streaming, ★★★ out of four) is both familiar and new. 

Like “Stranger,” “Locke” oozes with horror ambience and takes its cues from famous tales of the supernatural. It stars precocious kids, is set in a small town full of secrets and portrays adult characters as clueless or conniving. “Locke” is a mix of fairy tale and haunted-house tropes, fascinating magical mythology and teen drama, and while all are successful at some point during the 10-episode first season, they  rarely are simultaneously). 

“Locke” is nearly as strong a debut as “Stranger Things” was in 2016, but it needs a few tweaks to jump the hurdle between good and great.  

Kinsey (Emilia Jones), Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) and Tyler (Connor Jessup) discover a set of magical keys in their family's ancestral home after their father is murdered in Netflix's

Based on popular comic books by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez, the series follows the Locke family – mom Nina (Darby Stanchfield, “Scandal”); teens Tyler (Connor Jessup, “American Crime”) and Kinsey (Emilia Jones); and elementary schooler Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) – all reeling from the murder of their father Rendell (played by Bill Heck in flashbacks).

They move from Seattle to the cutesy New England town of Matheson, taking up residence in Rendell’s gothic ancestral home, known around town as “Key House” (get it?), where the kids discover a series of magical keys. One lets you unlock doors to anywhere in the world; one lets you travel inside a physical manifestation of your own mind; and another turns you into a free-flying ghost. 

Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) an ethereal and magical woman with nefarious intent, also pursues the keys and isn’t worried if she harms the kids along the way. In the midst of their discovery, Kinsey and Tyler try to adapt to their new school, make friends and flirt with potential boyfriends and girlfriends. 

Laysla De Oliveira as the mysterious villain Dodge in Netflix's

“Locke’ succeeds with almost all the magical and fantastical elements:  The mythology behind the keys is a refreshing take on fantasy storytelling, and each new key is as exciting for viewers as it is for the kids. The trip from comic book to screen leaves a few mildly irksome plot holes – How many keys are there? Where did they come from? Are their powers limited? – that (I hope) will get satisfying explanations  if the series survives for multiple seasons. 

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