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STRANGER THINGS Season 01: REVIEW and REFERENCES

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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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Film Study: Adam Wingard’s “Death Note” remake is NOW to become a Netflix Movie..

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Even if I’m more into horror as a genre, one thing I used to love more than anything was anime. I still do enjoy it, but I’m very particular [whereas I used to just watch anime “just so I could say I’m watching anime”] about the series I’m watching. One series that I used to watch religiously [and still enjoy to this day] is Death Note. The series follows a young man – Light Yagami – who comes across a Shinigami’s – or “Death God” – notebook which claims that anyone who’s name is written in the book will die. Naturally, Light finds this a useful tool in his attempt to “cleanse the world” of evil, to create a “new world” where he’ll be the ruler. Light even becomes known as “Kira“, an almost hero of the people. [since he starts by only killing criminals] Of course, it isn’t that simple, as a mysterious detective known only as “L” appears, claiming to solve the mystery of who Kira is, and a dangerous cat and mouse begins between the two. It’s a really enjoyable series, both in manga and anime, which I strongly recommend if you haven’t seen. It’s not even that long either, so you could probably marathon both seasons in less than a week! [points to you, Netflix!] In fact, the exact year the anime ended, there was – not one, but three – live action movies made based on the series in Japan. While the third one, titled: Death Note: L: Change The World not being as good as the other two, it was still an interesting take on the character. Now, we’re getting a new Death Note live action movie..and it’s going to be “Americanized” – seriously.

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Taken from the Japanese live action film. [left: Ryuk – the “Death God” | right: Light Yagami]

This isn’t new to anyone though, because this live action movie actually started life back in 2011, with Shane Black attached to direct. But, like with many Hollywood productions based on manga and anime properties [don’t get me started on Dragon Ball Evolution..] it landed itself in production hell, as nobody in Hollywood seems to understand Japanese pop-culture! Even as early as last year, Warner Bros picked up the production for the film but again, let the project sit. Letting it waste away. Then came both STX and Lionsgate, who are both fairly interested in making this Death Note a reality, bringing it to theaters for a large-scale audience. Unfortunately [I just really wanted to see it on the big screen] this is more than likely not going to happen.. because Netflix has now stepped up to take the helm, with production on the movie to start as early as June 2016!

It’s actually refreshing to see that Netflix has stepped in here and is actually doing something about this adaptation. This is most likely because Netflix, unlike some companies, is a very data driven company and follows what the consumers are interested in. [I mean, we got a new Pee-Wee Herman movie because of Netflix – that’s awesome!] Hollywood, on the other hand, has this big ideological disconnect with their viewers, especially when it comes to foreign property. It’s unfortunate, but true that they don’t seem to be able to successfully overcome that yet.

So while we might not have a trailer yet, and it might be strange to consider an “Americanized” Death Note film, I can safely say that I’m curious. Worried, but genuinely curious about how this movie will turn out. It’s definitely in good hands with Netflix, since they seem to know what they’re doing with big name series, and their fans love them! [they know this all too well] I’ll be sure to keep updating on here when more news, or even a trailer is released. My only concern that I can think of, is how will Ryuk look? the CGI one from the Japanese live action film was perfect, but will it be as perfect in the American one? There’s many questions left unanswered at this time, but I just need to know more!

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Ryuk in the manga – Death Note

As always, now I turn to You. What are Your thoughts on an “Americanized” Death Note? Is it something you’re excited for? Or are you worried that it’ll turn out like Dragon Ball Evolution? [*shudders!] Let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments! Once again, if you haven’t seen the Death Note anime – I strongly recommend sitting and watching the series, it’s not very long, and it is on Netflix. [No excuses!] It’s well worth your time, even if it does get kind of strange near the end! Also, if you find yourself to enjoy what I do on here, then please take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [it’s at over 147+ likes – only a few more and we’ll have reached over 150!] 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! 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 my most recent reviews including newer/theatrical films such as  Deadpool and The Revenant and older films, such as Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy. 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.

Whether It’s A Word, Or A Look: Let’s Talk About “THE BABADOOK”

After waiting forever for it to hit Netflix, I finally committed myself to seeing The Babadook: an Australian film that doesn’t skip out on the scares. With it’s hauntingly beautiful cinematography, it’s really good acting, and even it’s ever depressing tone, [which I’ll get to later] I was begging for this movie to be as good as it was living it up to be – and it certainly was! The fact that, being a foreign film, there were actors that I didn’t recognize – It’s made it something I found myself to really enjoy. Overall, the film was atmospheric, it was extremely suspenseful at times- without relying on jump scares- and best of all: it felt real. As with most of my reviews, there are spoilers ahead, so read on with that warning fresh in your mind..

The Babadook follows Amelia – a single mother plagued by thoughts of of her [dead] husband and her struggles to raise her troubled [and often times, even angry] son, Samuel. Regardless of these hardships though, Amelia still somehow manages to find the patience to read a book to her son every night. One specific night though, Samuel finds a book sitting on the top shelf, titled “Mister Babadook”, which he doesn’t seem to recognize.. [STEP ONE, KID: IF YOU DON’T RECOGNIZE SOMETHING, DON’T TOUCH IT; LEAVE IT ALONE!!] After more or less guilting his Mother to read this dark, unfamiliar book to him, Samuel starts making weapons out of wooden planks, tennis balls, and even dart guns[pretty smart for a 7 year old..] Naturally, this ultimately end up with him being expelled from school – as we are told that he was telling people about the “Babadook“, and even firing his “toys” at the other kids!! But like any good horror story, strange things begin to happen at home – and they all seem to follow what we saw in the book, making Amelia [and Samuel] start to “see”, and feel the presence of the Babadook in their dreams, see it manifest itself onto TV [or at least, creatures that look close to] and – as they, and we – as the audience, fears most in every day real life.

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BUT, There are exceptions to things I’ve said above though, such as one of the more important things people should know about the film, especially before diving in thinking it’s a monster movie – is that it’s not entirely about The Babadook as a monster. [wait, what?] Let me explain that: even though our “villain” has a fantastic [albeit, somewhat campy] design and his story is told extremely by a twisted storybook with violent, but great illustrations , the movie still stands taller with it’s take on the more human side of the tale – which is the seeing the struggle of Amelia as a mother who is clearly unable to live normally.

Sometimes, just watching the pacing of her life may feel like it’s moving too fast for the film, but if you include all the sadness and deprivation beneath her regular troubling days, you can tell that underneath all Amelia‘s strength, and her pains as a single mother, she’s hurting. badly. The film chooses to deliberately takes their personal grief, and then make sure that we, as the viewers, know that deep down – they aren’t actually insane: but that they’re hurting inside and that nobody else could ever understand what they’re going through. Therefore, although the movie talks about a “monster under the bed”, the plot is mainly concerned about Amelia finding a way to overcome Samuel‘s behavioral issues and her plaguing memories of the loss of her husband, rather than dealing with a supernatural threat calling itself “Babadook.”

Unless you count It Followswhich I talked about in great detail over here, It’s been a very long time since I have seen a horror film this effective. The Babadook is a film that is interested in engaging the audience with its characters, relying on it’s subtly and clever imagery to legitimately scare its audience – rather than go cheap, and use ineffective jump scares. If you haven’t seen it yet – take advantage of it being on Netflix; because every positive review you’ve read is true, just take one word of advice: if you have a book calling itself Mister Babadook on your shelf, and you don’t recognize it – don’t fucking touch it..

THANKS FOR READING.