1980s

STRANGER THINGS Season 01: REVIEW and REFERENCES

stranger-things

I have a confession: I loved season one of Stranger Things. It’s a show I had been putting off watching since it’s original release, mainly because I had class Monday to Friday for three weeks, and I felt that if I get caught up in a TV show; [albeit, only eight episodes] I’d fall behind. Now, with class being done since July 27th, I finally watched this show in it’s entirety.. and holy fuck, this show was fantastic!

Let’s get one thing straight first though, Stranger Things isn’t the first TV show/movie to try and recapture the feeling of the 80s horror/adventure films. Think of  J.J. AbramsSuper 8 – the difference here is that you’ve never seen anything quite like this series. The show is essentially genre-less too, with numerous references and allusions to the 80s, allowing itself to become a mysterious sci-fi horror complex story that ends up being something extremely unique and individual. Some of the things that happen are Weird, others are Strange. It’s a really refreshing feeling to see story telling like this. We see many throwbacks to the 80’s Sci-Fi and Horror genres respectively, with heavy influences from John Carpenter and Stephen King. It doesn’t only look like an 80s time capsule, but feels like one too! I have to hand it to the Duffer brothers, they really captured the essence of the 80’s – and I wasn’t even born yet!

2qafj6t

“there’s how many references in STRANGER THINGS?”

As I said above, there are a lot of references in Stranger Things, some obvious; but some are more cleverly hidden. Most notably, Stranger Things gives a ton of nods to films that I grew up with – films like E.T. and The Goonies: the bikes, the dark backyards, the group of kids, and the flashlights. But if you were to look at the lighting and sets, you’ll notice there’s so much that feels like Alien, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Firestarter. Other homages include Poltergeist, Explorers, The Shining, Stand by Me, and Carrie. Of course, this is only some of the “Easter eggs.” There are still so many more, although you will just have to re-watch Stranger Things to see them all! Below, I’ve included some of the ones that I noticed. [Did you notice other ones? Let me know in the comments!] As expected, these references include major spoilers for Stranger Things: Season one so make sure you watch all eight episodes first.


rlwk2cf

UNDER THE SKIN:

Whenever Eleven uses her powers to read other people’s minds, she seems to enter a dark, featureless world that is gives off the same eerie feeling that the “black room” in Jonathan Glazer‘s artsy film Under the Skin had. In both cases, the enigmatic female character is seen to walk across a mirrored black surface that behaves like both a solid and as a liquid.

z3xgq5q

STAR WARS:

This one is fairly easy to notice, but there are plenty of Star Wars references in Stranger Things – and I’m not just talking about the poster. Mike owns a Yoda action figure, and is in awe at Eleven‘s “Jedi powers”. When Lucas thinks Eleven is lying to the gang, he calls her “Lando” – after Lando Calrissian. [For those unaware, Lando is the character who betrays Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back]

fhq0cc8

ALIEN:

Eager to investigate the gooey [and gross looking] inter-dimensional portal in their basement, the team at Hawkins Laboratory send in a disposable technician [Right] to check it out, with only a flashlight. The whole sequence is a call back to the first act of Alien, when the similarly-outfitted Kane [Left] explores the surface of the planet with his crew. Both characters are attached to a safety-cable which, in the end, does absolutely nothing for their safety.

xmr0bh1

E.T.

E.T. is probably the most important reference in Stranger Things because there are just so many of them! From the moody flashlight search sequences, to the general logic of kids on bikes outrunning a shady government organization who are after them. When she is left to her own devices at Mike‘s house, Eleven is often seen exploring the world with the same child-like fascination as E.T. Even during the scene where Mike and his friends “disguise” Eleven in a dress and wig to help her blend in at school is a clear call to a scene in E.T. in which Gertie gives the alien a “makeover.” [The only real question here is: who wore it better?]

rsg4yr3

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET:

The final episode of Stranger Things, which sees Jonathan and Nancy try to kill the “demogorgon”, matches up exactly with the climax of the original 1984 A Nightmare On Elm Street film: in both films, the teenage heroes trick a dimension-shifting monster into going into a house filled with traps, before setting it on fire. Meanwhile, in episode two [titled “The Weirdo On Maple Street”] sees the the “demogorgon” stretch the wall of Will Byers‘ room, which was also recalling a similar scene in Nightmare.

pvfpbyz

THE GOONIES:

The tone that Stranger Things sets owes a lot to Steven Spielberg‘s adventure story, The Goonies which sees a group of misfit friends discover a long-lost treasure map. As one could easily see, there are similarities between The GooniesChunk [top, right] and Stranger ThingsDustin. [below, centre]

oeqldn8

STAND BY ME:

 The sequence in which Mike, ElevenLucas, and Dustin walk along an old railway track is a reference to the 1986 coming-of-age film, Stand By Me – which is based on a Stephen King short story called The Body. [Oddly enough, this was also the title of the episode when this happened..] In both, a group of friends work together to track down a missing child.


AND FINALLY..


a8gbf6y

ALTERED STATES:

If you look carefully enough, The Sensory Deprivation Chamber Eleven uses in Hawkins Laboratory [left] closely resembles the isolation tank William Hurt‘s character enters in Altered States. [right] Both Altered States and Stranger Things play with the idea that sensory deprivation can awaken dormant parts of the brain.



Again, these are just some of the references/call backs to various science fiction and horror films from the 80s. As expected, I wouldn’t be able to write all of them here, because I would never leave my chair. [I didn’t even talk about the Movie Posters on the kids’ bedroom walls, or the movies playing on TVs in the background!] The question is though, which references did You see? Which ones stood out the most for You? Let me know in a comment or two below! [if you haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, I strongly recommend it!]

As always, if you find yourself to enjoy what I do on here, then please take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [we’re at over 150+ likes – let’s get to 200!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been “gone live” online; and I also share links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog.

Every “like” helps me a ton, giving me the ability to write more posts for you to read, so be sure to tell the horror enthusiast in your life to do the same, and share The Facebook Page with your family and friends! I’ve also been writing way more reviews on my Letterboxd account, this is because I’m trying to review every single movie I watch  – with each review coming the very next day after viewing! Are you interested yet? Check me out over there and click that “follow” button! I’m just bound to follow you back because I like reading other people’s thoughts on film, as well as writing reviews myself!

kkhqcku

THANKS FOR READING.

Advertisements

WEIRDO’WEEN #12: The Thing [1982]

weirdoween2015Can you imagine being trapped in the middle of Antarctica during a blizzard? [that’s like: colder than cold!] Even worse, can you imagine being trapped in Antarctica with your fellow workers in a facility; all while an alien creature has the ability to mimic your best friend, and you don’t know just what’s going on? That’s exactly what happens for Helicopter pilot J.R MacReady, who’s hellbent on finding out just what is going on around him..I mean, what can you do when you’re amongst an alien with the power to transform and take the appearance of anybody else is amongst them. Who is infected already, and who can be trusted? All those questions [and more] will be asked, in this edition of Weirdo’ween‘s movie: John Carpenter‘s The Thing.

weirdo'ween-#12The Thing takes place in the Antarctic in 1982, where it mainly focuses on a group of American scientists. We are given no introduction to their mission, but are thrust into their lives when a pair of [seemingly] crazy Norwegians appear out of nowhere at their base camp, chasing an escaped dog. The Norwegians are abruptly killed, and the dog finds its way into scientists’ base, which is when things really start to pick up. It soon becomes quite clear that this “dog” is actually a shape-shifting alien organism, which seems to take it upon itself to take the physical form of its victims! In other words, as it begins to eat the Americans, it also can imitate them so well, that the remaining humans cannot distinguish the difference between their friends and their new found enemies!

The pack of scientists, led by one J. R MacReady[played brilliantly by Kurt Russell] begin to fight for their own survival, using only their remaining wits.. Of course, many questions start arising: If this Thing is among them, then how are they supposed to go about revealing it? Is there only one? Or how many Things are there? How can this Thing be killed? [Can it even be destroyed at all?]

Thankfully, the creature’s origins in the film are explained easily: Thirty thousand years ago a spacecraft crash landed on Earth, and was encased in the Antarctic ice. While The Thing tried to escape, it was quickly discovered [in the ice] by the Norwegians, who unknowingly accidentally released it from its natural icy prison. What makes this movie so good is it makes you ask questions as you continue watching such as: “How am I supposed to stay alive if any, if not all, of the crew is infected?” The Thing is extremely smart and calculating, forcing each decision the few remaining survivors one step closer to killing off the entire group. It plans for this, it hopes for this: and sadly – things really could have gone from bad to worse really fast. MacReady takes control of the situation with a no-nonsense attitude, but over the course of the film, even he can see the reality of the unfortunate situation; that eventually – this thing might actually come out on top.

But the absolute best thing about this movie [besides everything] is the visual effects. The creature design of The Thing is one of those great design masterpieces that manage to feel so real, it feels almost out of place. Like I said before, we actually get to see an alien life form in the shape of a dog physically attach to a human being and try to steal its form; the same thing also becomes a disembodied head sprout legs and crawl around the research station like a spider! I mean, yes; it’s gross, gut wrenching and certainly disturbing but The Thing itself is unlike any alien you have ever seen in a movie before.. and for that, it deserves all the credit.

Another thing that makes this movie such a great film is that The Thing actually provides little to no answers, leaving us to seek them for ourselves. Naturally, this infuriated many audiences when it was first released.. Viewers wanted closure, answers, and a sense of victory over the “monster.” Instead, Carpenter gave us a look at the state of humanity in 1982, leaving us with more questions than answers: Who won? Who was still human? Did it even matter anymore? How do we know we aren’t already living in a world composed of “things?” In my opinion, this makes the movie better, though at the same time, it also makes the movie feel depressing. Even in the last shot of the film, when Childs and MacReady are seen taking swigs of a bottle of whiskey during a wide shot of the camp in flames fire after “it’s all over”; both men just sit among the burning wreckage.. waiting for the flames to die down the winter weather to ultimately consume them.. it makes us wonder: could either [if not both] of these two men be The Thing? It’s a question that is still being talked about to this day, and the movie is over 30 years old!

If you consider yourself a horror fan, then you have to have seen The Thing by now, and if you haven’t; get on it. Seriously. It’s scary, it’s dark, and it can be fairly depressing; especially when you come to the conclusion that the ending might just not be as happy as you would hope. But it’s a masterpiece in it’s own right. Though, be aware: it’s not strictly horror, since it could also be considered a sci-fi film as well, but it’s just so good; it definitely one of those movies that deserves it’s praise! [even if it was a flop when it first released!]

Another thing! If you have an idea for the next weirdo’ween review please let me know which movie[s] you’d like to see next! If you found yourself to enjoy this particular review – and want to see more – then take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [it’s at over 120+ likes almost at 130!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been posted online; as well as links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog. Every “like” helps me a ton, giving me the ability to write more posts for you to read, so be sure to tell the horror enthusiast in your life to do the same, and share The Facebook Page with your family and friends! Join me tomorrow morning when I talk about weirdo’ween #13! STAY TUNED! [and with this post now written, we are officially caught up on weirdo’ween movie reviews, yay!]

because I know that you wanted to see the dog ‘transform’ ..

THANKS FOR READING.

WEIRDO’WEEN #08: Gremlins [1984] / Gremlins 2 [1990]

weirdoween2015

Everyone wants a pet. Some like dogs, others like the easy job of watching over a cat, and others – like a certain friend of mine – prefers reptiles! [like snakes, and lizards, and stuff] But then you get Billy Peltzer: a young man who works at a bank and lives at home. He has a dog, and was living a completely normal life..until Christmas.What Billy receives is something called a Mogwai. That’s right, everyone; today we are talking about not one, but two films that I used to watch so much, I was convinced I was going to own a Mogwai for myself! Except I didn’t; and that still bugs me to this day.. I mean, I even did my first Friday Fun Fact on the first movie! That should show my dedication! [check it out here!]

weirdo'ween-#8Everybody, and I mean everybody, has at least heard of the movie Gremlins: it’s a cute story about a cuddly looking Mogwai named Gizmo who has a specific set of rules attached to him: [1] no bright lights, [2] don’t get him wet, and [3] never feed him after midnight, no matter how much he begs! These rules were set in place for the reasons: bright light physically hurts him, and sunlight can kill him. If he gets wet, he pops out more versions of himself! But most importantly, if fed after midnight, a Mogwai will spin into a cocoon and undergo metamorphosis; turning him into an evil, trouble-making gremlin, causing all sorts of trouble!

The story is a fairly simple one to follow, with it’s somewhat typical monster movie plot. An ordinary guy watches as his unusual but cute pet spawns a horde of evil Gremlins. When he tries to warn the authorities, they don’t believe him until the creatures show up and go on a rampage throughout the town. [sound familiar?] Like in most monster movies, people make a plan to destroy them, which works, mostly; but then that one left which needs to be defeated to consider the evil “finished”. I mean EVERY monster movie convention in the book is used, including all the famous shocks like something jumping out in the foreground and something jumping out in the background, but what makes Gremlins special is the “monsters”  have their own personalities. They don’t eat people or kill them in order to survive.. They just want to have fun and cause chaos! [Gremlins Just Wanna Have Fun, anyone?]

And then there’s the sequel, titled Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which takes place only a few years after the events in Gremlins. In this sequel, Billy has moved to New York where he now works for a man by the name of Daniel Clamp. a certain someone gets hit with water, and ends up creating a new Gremlin species! Thankfully, unlike the first film, Gizmo finally learns to fight back after the first movie. [if you remember, Gizmo spent most of his time hiding] While the surviving humans fight the gremlins back, the Gremlins and their leader, The Brain Gremlin, are planning to escape when nightfall comes.

Unlike the first Gremlins film, which had a horror undertone to it, this film doesn’t feel scary at all: going full out comedy. Because of this, it’s often looked at as not only the lesser of the two Gremlins flicks but also, not a good movie in general. I just don’t understand why though, I grew up loving this movie! It successfully continues the underlying theme of the original [unlike a lot of sequels which seem to forget their points entirely] and the Gremlins all have their own personalities, which helps us distinguish which ones feel evil, and which ones are evil. The New Batch follows the Gremlins while they’re loose in a totally automated high-rise office building, which is already suffering from its own malfunctions. Naturally, this serves as the perfect “playground” for them. So be sure to check out Gremlins and even Gremlins 2, but chances are – especially if you’re a movie fan – you already have! If you haven’t, then get on that as soon as possible! They’re cheesy, they’re funny, and Mogwai are some of the cutest creatures on the planet.. as long as you follow the rules!

[DID I MENTION SIR CHRISTOPHER LEE APPEARS IN GREMLINS 2?!] So there you have it: not one, but two films that I used to watch so much, I probably broke the family TV.. Also, if you have an idea for the next weirdo’ween review please let me know which movie[s] you want to see next! If you found yourself to enjoy this particular review – and want to see more – then take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [it’s at over 120+ likes almost at 130!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been posted online; as well as links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog. Every “like” helps me a ton, giving me the ability to write more posts for you to read, so be sure to tell the horror enthusiast in your life to do the same, and share The Facebook Page with your family and friends! Join me tomorrow when I talk about weirdo’ween #09! STAY TUNED!

[…I still want a Mogwai. Just saying!]

THANKS FOR READING.