It’s no surprise that everyone who has watched Stranger Things is on board with the awesomeness of the show. The praise and acclaim it has been receiving online is more than justifiable in my opinion, and here’s why. I’m an 80s kid. There’s so much attention to the 80s in film and television as of late especially in the horror genre which surely is a great thing (just for reference if you’re a big fan of the 80s, for non-horror entertainment purposes watch The Goldbergs). The Duffer Brothers are also 80s kids so it’s easy to presume that they relate to the kids in the show and had a great time making it. The 80s reminds us of when we were content with our 22” TVs, phone cords, analog systems, and big hair. The 80s and decades prior radiated honesty in people, a time when we had to make an effort, were more sedulous which emphasized the essence of adventure. There’s so much from the 80s that us 80s kids tend to feel so nostalgic about. In Stranger Things, the vast amount of homages and tributes to movies/fiction of the 80s is notably obvious and appreciated. I’ll jump right into those first.
Stephen King, the king of horror, is the most apparent tribute in Stranger Things. The font of the title is displayed like his name on the cover of his novels in the 80s, whose name is also mentioned in the show. Two similarities between the show and Stephen King’s IT is they ride around on their bikes to defeat the monster and they use a slingshot to aim a rock at the monster’s mouth, whereas in IT they use a slingshot to shoot a piece of silver at the spider version of Pennywise. It doesn’t come to a shock that the Duffer Brothers actually wanted to direct the upcoming new IT movie but Warner Brothers turned them down. But at least Finn Wolfhard who plays Mike in Stranger Things is cast as Richie Tozier in IT so good for him! The kids walking on the rail tracks reminded me of the boys walking on the rail tracks in Stand by Me which is another remarkable Stephen King novel. El is reminiscent of Charlie in Firestarter and her father Andy gets nose bleeds when he uses his telekinetic abilities much like El as well. Stephen King has tweeted his admiration for the show calling it pure fun, an A+ and to not miss it.
Steven Spielberg, an exquisite director of our time, is also celebrated for his work in Stranger Things. Probably the most nostalgic detection we've all noticed is E.T. The shed in Will’s backyard where he was abducted looks quite similar to the shed in Elliott’s backyard. The cinematography and even the tone in nighttime colors rendered an E.T. vibe to me. Mike and his friends trying to evade the government men on their bikes is also like in E.T. when Elliot and his friends are trying to save E.T. on their bikes. Both groups of kids play D&D and I would go as far to say that Dustin's look is loosely based on Greg from E.T.'s outfit. If there was one single character in Stranger Things that I would say was reminiscent of another, it would be Joyce Buyers’ similarity to Diane Freeling in Poltergeist played by JoBeth Williams. They both possess the love and compassion that would be expected from a mother that would do anything to save their child, no matter what natural or supernatural obstacles they may face. Joyce and Diane are both able to communicate to Will and Carol Anne, one using the television and the other with string lights. They also both express how imperative it is that they are the ones to go on the quest to save their child. Joyce goes into the upside down to find Will, and Diane goes into the unknown void in Carol Anne’s closet. Although frightened, their devotion and prowess are evident.
I noticed other non-80s homages in the show as well. For example, I detected a notion of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which was a spectacular show from the 90s, let’s be honest. (Although James is the worst. I usually skip the scenes with him and that woman who tries to convince him to murder her husband, WHO CARES!). The final scene in Stranger Things is quite like the final scene in the last episode of season 2 in Twin Peaks. Will goes into the bathroom to barf out a slug and as he stares into the mirror, the upside down is revealed to him. In Twin Peaks, Kyle McLaughlin’s character Dale Cooper goes into the bathroom and stares at his reflection in the mirror and it is revealed that he is actually Bob who escaped from the black lodge. Both endings involve leading the viewer to believe the story is resolved but then it turns out something more sinister is still to come. More 90s nostalgia that I felt was coming from Chris Carter's X-Files and Ridley Scott's Alien which was extremely pleasing for a sci-fi fan. It’s quite obvious that the mysterious government men are very “x-filesish” (and E.T.) and where Joyce finds Will in the upside down, we see a tube feeding the slugs into his mouth which was reminiscent of me of Alien. Not only does the show have an X-Files feel to it, Jonathan Byers is also the name of one of the lone gunmen. But aside from the 80s and 90s, the newest influence that I detected was Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin which is HIGHLY recommended if you haven’t seen it. When El is submerged into the water tank, she can go into what seems to be a wormhole in space-time where it’s just total darkness and that reminded me of the void in Under the Skin where Scarlett Johanssen’s character lures her victims to their demise.
There is much more to admire about Stranger Things than the nostalgic homages. Kudos to the composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, who have a band called SURVIVE from Austin, TX, for their work on the score. The main theme song is marvelous and it's just another noteworthy addition to the current synthwave craze. Chief Jim Hopper is a badass. He drinks beer, smokes, gets laid and is deeply focused on learning the truth. His efforts in uncovering the mystery are viable which only frames his grounded demeanor. I have to applaud the camera shots looking into space and the constant mention of Lando Calrissian's name throughout the show. I'm a space and Star Wars nerd so I acknowledged every time Dustin said "Lando" in regards to any disloyal behavior as Lando Calrissian led Han Solo to Darth Vader resulting in him being frozen in carbonite. Also just wanted to remark on Steve Harrington's fabulous and voluptuous hair! It’s also really cool that Dr. Brenner is associated with the MKULTRA project which was actually a real illegal project researched by the CIA regarding telekinesis and mind control in the 1950s.
I'll state my anticipation for the 2nd season with many questions that intrigued my curiosity while watching Stranger Things. What exactly is the Demogorgon monster? We can enter the upside down via the portals but the monster can appear and disappear at will anywhere to feed/kidnap, while also being able to carry a person/animal back with him to the upside down. He can detect blood so I would assume that he's a hunter, but who is he hunting for? Like in Aliens, is there a queen Demogoron and does she need humans as incubators for her offspring? Who are the government men and what agency do they work for? Their cryptic nature leads me to consider there's so much more about them that we will eventually find out. Like how did the fake body come to be and what are they planning on doing with Hopper? I'm relieved that El is still out there somewhere so we will be blessed to see more of Millie Bobby Brown's superb performance.
After watching Stranger Things, I felt obliged to write about it so I could express my adoration for the show. The Duffer Brothers have compiled and included all these sentimental, nostalgic memories which have invoked a fond emotion in all of us 80s kids to embrace and appreciate. It appeals to multiple ages however people in their 30s definitely note its significant value. Overall it has succeeded on many levels and I personally am quite eager for the 2nd season.