John Carpenter

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!

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“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.


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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.

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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]

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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.

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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?]

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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.

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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]

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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..


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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!

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THANKS FOR READING.

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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.

warrenisweird’s TOP 05 DECAPITATIONS IN HORROR

top05decapitationsBelieve it or not, this post is actually inspired by a friend of mine who once said to me “you can appreciate a good decapitation in a horror film.. I can respect that.” After careful consideration, and looking back on some of my older TOP 05 posts, I realized – I never did a list based on some of my favorite decapitations in horror movies. according to Urban Dictionary, a decapitation is described as “the removal of the head which normally consists of some idiot hacking off the head with an axe directed at the neck area.” So, here is the part where I list some of my personal favorites. these are the ones that have stuck in my mind the most over the years, so although these may not be your favorites, they’re some of the ones that have had the most impact on me. So here we go – warrenisweird‘s top 05 decapitations in horror – in no particular order, of course!

SPOILER-ALERT


The Omen:

Starting off with a classic, The Omen somehow made this shot look graceful, with knocking someone’s head off with a bit of building material look majestic, what with the disembodied head performing 360 spins and turns. I remember seeing this for first time when I was younger and being surprised that a scene could even be filmed that way.

High Tension:

Coming from a movie I’ve watched more times than I can count, [that’s not a bad thing..] High Tension is a film that wins for having such a fun feeling to it’s filming style. The story follows a serial killer who breaks into the home where Marie [and her friend/her family] is staying, only to start killing everyone. At least he was polite enough to ring the doorbell. In the above scene, Father has his head jammed between two staircase rails – unable to move – and our killer decides on smashing his head with a dresser. I mean, really?!

Cigarette Burns:

Coming from the first season of The Masters Of Horror TV series, and directed by Master John Carpenter, This one hour movie [“episode”] follows a guy who is looking for a rare print of a movie so evil that anyone who watches it supposedly descends into a uncontrollable psychotic frenzy.  During his search, he meets many terrible people, including someone who ties him to a chair and forces him to watch someone get decapitated. It’s not exactly a quick/clean cut either, there’s quite a bit of hacking involved.

“C Is For Capital Punishment”ABCs Of Death 2:

Unlike the first ABCs Of Death film, I actually enjoyed the sequel. For what it is, this sequel actually had decent shorts, with nothing too extreme or strange. Being a short that was hinted at in the trailer, I had high hopes for this part of the film. Thankfully, I felt that it paid off – giving a darker feel to a not so gruesome story. [I mean, it is gruesome, but compared to some of the other shorts in the movie – this one isn’t too bad] Just watching the axe get caught in the guy’s neck, only to be jerked out looks extremely painful..

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan:

Although I’m not the biggest Friday The 13th fan, I feel that this particular scene never ceases to make me laugh. It doesn’t help that with a title like Jason Takes Manhattan, you’d expect to Jason running around New York kill a ton of people – not spend the entire film on a boat, only to arrive in Manhattan in the last few minutes.. anyway. This scene follows Julius, a boxer who thinks he can stand up to our masked killer, but when he tires himself out from flailing for an extended period of time; Jason takes his turn and…this happens. Sure, it’s cheesy as hell; but I love it. It’s something that needed to happen to make this terrible film bearable.


Now obviously, decapitations are a dime a dozen, especially when horror films feel that they need a quick kill to keep the audience entertained. These are just a few of the many I could have mentioned so here are some honorable mentions, even though I never really do this sort of thing..

30 Days Of NightBilly‘s death

Deadly Friendthe basketball scene

Hobo With A Shotgun Ricky as not Ricky


So now I turn to you, the reader of this article. What’s your favorite horror movie decapitation? Was it on this list? If not, let me know in the comments below! I would love to know which ones are your favorites, especially if you can think of one that I wouldn’t have considered! Also, if you found yourself to enjoy this film review, please take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [it’s at over 100+ likes – only 15 more and we’ll have reached 130!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been posted 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!

THANKS FOR READING.