Compiled by the Higgypop Professor of the 1980s, Gareth Bellamy. He's so old, he can remember the 70s!
Halloween. A night when the barrier between our world, and other worlds, gets so thin, sometimes it breaks and things from beyond can enter our domain. Why should the town of Hawkins be any different during the season of the witch?
The 1983 science fiction horror film, 'Videodrome' from director David Cronenberg features a specific kind of special effect seen in Stranger Things. It's the stretchy skin effect seen as Eleven squeezes through from the Upside Down into 'our' world. It's an effect you don't see as much nowadays, as CGI is more commonly used. So this retro effect serves the dual purpose of triggering a reminder of all those 80s films it appeared in. See also 'Nightmare on Elm Street'.
Yes, we got our fill of ET references in season one of Stranger Things, but the start of episode two gives us a friendly reminder of one of the key touchstones for this series, the 1982 Spielberg film about the relationship between a boy and an alien.
As Eleven is seen in a flashback scene, looking at Mike, through the windows of his house, she is spotted by 'the feds' who pursue her through local woodland. Cue ET-style scenes as federal agents with torches scour the dark woods for Eleven, whilst she shelters under a tree. This scene could only have looked more like ET if it featured a brown, walking alien clutching a Speak and Spell.
Yes, after the credits roll we see Eleven gearing up for Halloween in the cabin where she's living with Hopper. Looking decidedly like ET when Elliot's family dress 'him' up under a sheet supposedly for trick or treating, when in fact they're trying to smuggle him out of town to 'phone home'.
Without a doubt, one of the archetypal films of the 80s, and impossible to avoid in this episode as the 'gang of four' head into school in the home made costumes, complete with proton packs, ready to get bustin'.
The film came out in 1984 and managed to combine comedy and fantasy drama with financial success and critical praise, not an easy trick to pull off. The theme of the film makes a perfect match for the boys in Stranger Things – funny, entertaining, frightening and just a bit nerdy!
The film spawned sequels, cartoons, computer games, an incredibly catchy theme tune and even a female-centric reboot in 2016. Thirty years on, the appearance of Ghostbusters is proof that bustin' makes you feel good.
The argument between Lucas and Mike about who should be Venkman and who Winston is validated somewhat in real life. Dan Aykroyd has gone on the record as saying he regrets the way the character Winston was sidelined in the film.
Following on from an episode one appearance, Arnie is back as the human killing cyborg from the future in a trailer for the film Eleven watches on TV.
'Chinatown' is a 1974 neo-noir mystery film from Roman Polanski. Mentioned in a the police station about the poisoned pumpkins issue as "Hawkins very own Chinatown", this draws a parallel between the major plot theme in Chinatown, which is about dodgy dealings over land rights in California in order to control the valuable water supply, and the ongoing feud between farmers apparently poisoning each other's pumpkins.
Back To The Future
Okay, so not a very strong film reference, but before the boys go Trick or Treating, Bob shows Jonathan how to use his video camera. It's the same model Doc Brown gives to Marty McFly to film his first time travelling experiment in the 1985 film.
Weird Science/Any teen film in the 80s with a party scene
The Halloween party scene looks familiar to any student of 80s Brat pack films. Many feature a party scene: The parents have left the house, there's kegs of beer and maybe some 'punch', people shout 'Paaarrrty!!!', everyone dances, someone is risk, a guy in leathers rides a motorbike into a swimming pool, and you might get a fleeting glimpse of some boob.
John Carpenter's 1978 seasonal horror film makes an appearance courtesy of Madmax, who is sporting a Michael Myers mask, as worn by the eponymous murderer in the film. Little known fact, when making the film John Carpenter ran out of money for mask, so painted a William Shatner Star Trek mask white, so the face of Michael Myers is actually… Captain Kirk. By the time 1984 had rolled round, the 'Halloween' franchise was already three films deep.
While El is waiting for Hopper to return home, she watches Frankenstein on TV. This is the original film directed by James Whale and released in 1931. Starring Boris Karloff as 'the monster', one of the major themes in this film is the monster struggling to understand what it is. The particular scene shown is notorious as it is shortly before the monster murders the young girl scene on screen, perhaps because he doesn't realise his own strength. A couple of pretty strong parallels for El we think!
Friday The Thirteenth
One of the boys who leaps out and scares Will while they're trick or treating is wearing an ice hockey mask, as sported by the killer Jason in the Friday the Thirteenth film series. The first film in the series was released in 1980, whilst by 1984 the fourth film had been released.
Siouxsie and the Banshees
A popular goth group in the 1980s, the girl Jonathan meets at the party who he accuses of dressing like kiss is actually wearing the make-up heavy look of lead singer Siouxsie Sioux.
Another film based on a Stephen King story, released in 1976. At the party, Nancy ends up getting a bit drunk. She tries to get another cup of delightful looking bright red booze, Steve tries to stop her and she ends up with her white outfit covered in red. Visually, strongly reminiscent of the infamous prom scene in Carrie where the title character, played by Sissy Spacek, has a bucket of pigs blood dropped on her by some rather horrible bullies.
The image of El sat in front of a TV screen playing static (you don't see that anymore with digital TV, do you?) mirrors one of THE defining images of this 1982 film. Although Poltergeist was officially directed by Tobe Hooper, who also brought you The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the producer was Stephen Spielberg. Rumours continue to this day that Spielberg was very hands-on with his assistance. It's easy to see strong parallels in the style of Poltergeist with ET, which was being filmed at the same time close by. Spielberg has since gone on the record to say it was very much Hooper's film.
Karate Kid, Rocky, Flashdance - Blink and you'll miss them appearance from guests dressed as characters from these films in the background at the Halloween party.
Before she spills that red drink all over her lovely white top, it's worth taking note of what Nancy is wearing. Yes, Nancy has dressed up like the 'tart with a heart' Lana, played by Rebecca de Mornay from 1983's Risky Business, whilst Steve has gone for the Tom Cruise look with his jacket and shades. Risky Business is widely acknowledged as the film that launched Tom Cruise on his path to stardom. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not is your decision!
Ray Parker, Jr – 'Ghostbusters'. As the boys get dressed in their ghostbusting outfits.
The unmistakeable sound of the Ghostbusters theme. Was this track really that popular in 1984? Hell yes! The writer of this article bought it in 1984 on 12” vinyl with extended instrumental dance mix as he loved it so much!
Ted Nugent – 'Wango Tango'. As Bill gets mad in his car.
Rocker Nugent is more famous these days for being a bit of a gun nut, but this track was released in 1980 and would have been a regular heard on radio at the time. It's been nominated for having one of the worst guitar solos of all time. Maybe skip this on the playlist?
Blackout – 'Swing Set'. Jonathan driving Will into town.
A band who it's fair to say didn't trouble the UK charts at all.
Motley Crue – 'Shout At The Devil'. Party track.
Motley Crue epitomised a genre of rock we can lovingly refer to as 'hair rock'. Dudes with enormous hairdos, wearing spandex trousers and focussing on style more than musical content. Motley Crue were huge in the 80s, despite members of the band trying their best to kill themselves through drugs overdoses.
Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – 'Islands in the Stream'. Joyce and Bob having a bit of a slow dance.
A middle of the road smash hit from this pairing, perfectly matched to the scene. Released in 1983, the song was actually written by the Bee Gees. More recently the track was performed on late night US TV by Jimmy Fallon and Miley Cyrus. We'll stick to the 80s version, thanks.
Bobby 'Boris' Pickett – 'Monster Mash'. Trick or treating scene.
A Halloween stalwart, this novelty track recently picked up a lot of mentions on social media as a student of the song pointed out the track we hear, Monster Mash, is not actually the monster mash itself. The lyrics of the song make clear that the singer is merely mentioning he heard the monster mash, he's telling us what it was like but the track isn't actually it. Clear? Good.
Big Giant Circles – 'Outside The Realm'. Mike and Will talking.
This is actually a recent track from electronic/retro producer Jimmy Hinson who's been very active in composing music for computer games.
On To Episode Three
After setting up the season and getting us to Halloween in the first couple of episodes, it's time to head on with the plot. Dustin appears to have found a new friend in his bin, what could it be?
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