I would like to start off with saying this happens to be my first article for Ready Steady Cut. So, hello, readers!
But who am I, you ask? Well, my name is Josh; I love long walks on the beach and the occasional horror movie. I’ve been studying film for a while now but above all else, like you, I’m a huge fan. I’m excited to be given this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and opinions on something that’s had such a massive impact on my life. So I hope to make every article/review/whatever as fun to read as it is going to be to write. Let’s get started, shall we?
***BEWARE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE, THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD***
If you’re like me and you’ve just finished season 2 of Stranger Things and you’re craving a little more, let’s dive into each episode and pick out some fun movie references and, in this case, Easter Eggos.
My favourite part of this series is how creative they get with referencing their inspirations in fun, sometimes subtle ways. Season 1 was full of Monster Movie goodness and Season 2 was definitely no different. We had everything from Gremlins to Aliens and even a little Pretty in Pink.
(Use the page links below to navigate through each episode!)
Episode 1 – MADMAX
Despite the title, there weren’t actually many Mad Max references aside from the beginning car chase scene, and Max using the name, appropriately, on the Dig Dug arcade machine. However, we do see The Terminator is playing at the local theatre. Fun fact, it also premiered the same weekend that Stranger Things 2 was released for our viewing pleasure, albeit 30-odd years apart. Not bad company to keep, really. It’s also worth noting that Dustin’s cat Mew-Mew shares a striking resemblance to my favourite onscreen cat of all time, Jonesy, from Aliens.
Speaking of Aliens, Paul Reiser’s Dr. Owens is introduced to us in the exact same way as his character in the aforementioned James Cameron blockbuster (lots of love for James this episode, apparently), right down to him lying and telling Will that he has nothing to worry about, just like he did to Ripley. Fans of both will know what he’s up to right away. What a jerk.
After being introduced to Dr. Owens, he asks Will what his favourite candy is – Will responds with Reese’s Pieces. I believe it to be a very subtle E.T. reference, and with how much love Spielberg gets in this series, that’s not a stretch of the imagination at all.
Episode 2 – Trick or Treat, Freak
This particular episode is so full of references I don’t even know where to start… so let’s start with the most obvious one: Ghostbusters. The gang decided to coordinate their costumes and go as the best dang Ghostbusters I’ve ever seen. I’ve often said that the only thing that would make that movie even better was two Venkmans, and we finally got it. I do love that they did this instead of going with the stereotypical choice. Thank you, Duffer Brothers.
Moving on, costumes were the big ones in this episode because they were everywhere. Max going as Michael Myers was cool, but I think Steve and Nancy win best couple costume in their Risky Business cosplay. I like a good Tom Cruise flick, what can I say.
We get introduced to Max’s step-brother, Billy, in this episode as well; he’s not even wearing a costume, but he might as well be the entire season, as he’s clearly a direct reference to Rob Lowe’s character, also named Billy, in St. Elmo’s Fire.
An honourable mention from this episode should be Eleven skipping channels to find static, and when she does find it we get a shot that’s very reminiscent of Poltergeist’s iconic shot. Another classic 80’s horror – it’s almost like there’s a theme here or something, folks.
Episode 3 – The Pollywog
A personal favourite of mine, this episode had some pretty great moments centred on Dustin, aka “The Only Correct Answer to Who Is the Best Character”, and his new slimy pal D’art. This is a fun one because we get a lot of Gremlins callbacks; for example, D’art hates bright light and water, and Gizmo (whom I just found out was voiced by none other than Howie Mandell) hates bright light and getting wet. It’s like they were meant to be. It should be noted that the kids decide to bring their newly discovered creature to their favourite teacher, just like Billy and the gang did in Gremlins. Moreover, D’art’s favourite chocolate bar? Just so happens to a certain Gremlins favourite as well. I don’t know what it is, but weird slimy creatures love nougat. I’m not complaining either, just an observation about monsters.
Also, another worth mentioning here is Mew-Mew reacting to a captured D’art by hissing; very similar scene to Jonesy’s reaction to the Xenomorph in Alien. With the amount of Alien references in this season I’m willing to bet it was intended.
Episode 4 – Will the Wise
This was kind of like the black sheep of the season for me, but I’m not here to review it, we don’t have that kind of time. What we do have though is a callback to a Scarface montage that is infamous for being the cheesiest montage ever. That’s a title you need to earn, and let me tell you… it was earned. The song being played during the Hawkins Basketball team montage is “Push It to the Limit”, which was the same song played in the 80’s film Scarface. Luckily, this wasn’t as bad.
Episode was though. Ok, ok, I’m not reviewing it.
Episode 5 – Dig Dug
We can finally get to the fact that the 80’s god himself, Sean Astin, is in this season, which itself is just a Goonies callback and a match made in heaven. What a great sport. Anyway, I’m really glad they didn’t pour on the Goonies references, it would have just been way too much and felt so forced. Bob Newby (Astin) mentioning pirate treasure made me squeal like a girl and do the truffle shuffle in my living room.
Bottom line: Bob knows his maps, ok?
Let’s move on. We see Will get his “body snatched” in this episode by the Shadow Monster (I’m gonna refer to it as the Mindflayer from here on out) and gives us Will’s incredible version of the famous screech from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers done by the great Donald Sutherland. Seriously, this kid crushed it this season, and I’m fully onboard the “get this kid an Emmy” bandwagon.
Side Note: I know Bob got the nickname “The Brain” for being smart, but it’s also a neat throwback to famous 80’s wrestling personality, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. RIP Bobby. Both Bob’s, actually… unintentionally sad moment.
Episode 6 – The Spy
“The Spy” could be the best episode of the season reference-wise. For me, anyway. We not only get great Aliens Easter eggs but even The Thing. The former doesn’t come until near the end, when the Hawkins Lab soldiers head down into the dark tunnel where nothing bad can possibly happen. As they reach the tunnels they seem very militant and ready for action – hoping for a fight, which is very similar to the James Cameron classic squad of over-zealous action heroes. To top it all off, we get the famous “stay frosty” line from the same film. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Josh you sure do talk about Aliens a lot. I can’t help it, it’s everywhere in this show!
As the Hawkins Lab Special Ops Supersoldiers reach the designated area inside the tunnels, they are quickly swarmed by the demodogs; being watched, as we can see on the radar, by Dr. Owens – just as his character did in Aliens. Seeing the red dots surround and quickly close in on their location I couldn’t help but think back to when Ripley and Newt and the rest of the survivors were holed up inside the abandoned lab. I promise that’s it, I won’t mention the movie again for an entire year.
Now, onto the other movie mentioned: The Thing. Will being possessed, infected even, by the Mindflayer made things really complicated for the rest of the Hawkins gang. Like The Thing itself, it can eavesdrop on your plans and scheme accordingly, which made it so difficult to defeat. Furthermore, Joyce even refers to whatever is inside her son as “that Thing”.
Another could-be reference is Steve getting attacked from the side by the demodogs, like the raptors in Jurassic Park in the famous “clever girl” scene. However, Jurassic Park wasn’t released until the 90’s, so it could be nothing more than a nod to Spielberg.
Episode 7 – The Lost Sister
This episode in particular gave me a ton of Empire Strikes Back vibes. Eleven’s long lost sister teaching her to hone her power to move something gigantic was so close to Yoda teaching Luke they might as well have been on Dagobah. That would have been really awesome actually, I’m about to petition this to Netflix for season 3. Also in the episode is Eleven using a good, old fashioned Force Choke on the man who turned her mom’s brain to mush. This was actually pretty great; I felt like El was really having an internal struggle between the light and dark side of the force. Get that girl a Vader mask.
Other than the mentions above, I didn’t really find much else in this episode movie-wise. However, there was a neat call back to last season with Eleven calling that stranger in Chicago a “mouth-breather”.
Episode 8 – The Mind Flayer
“The Mind Flayer” didn’t seem to rely very heavily on any references or Easter eggs. We did seem to get more Jurassic Park references with Bob’s “open sesame” line, and the scene in which Hopper says “where are the breakers?” – both are identical lines from similar scenes in the aforementioned film. Intended? Maybe. I’m on the fence of the Jurassic Park theory going around. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be reference to the dinosaur film from the 90’s or more of a love letter to Spielberg, who was such a major influence in the 80’s. I had to dig very deep into this episode; if you caught any that I missed, feel free to find us on Twitter and let us know!
Episode 9 – The Gate
Last but not least, we have a ton to go over in the final episode. Steve calling himself a “great babysitter” is a nod to how prominent babysitters were in the 80’s; seriously, they were everywhere, like superhero films are today. More on Steve. The scene in which they are in the tunnels and he jumps ahead taking the lead is a fun little nod to The Goonies. In that film we see Mikey’s (played by Hawkins’ very own Bob Newby) older brother (played by Josh Brolin) push the kids aside and say, “I’m oldest, I take the lead”. Steve even has the trademark red bandana.
Not exactly an 80’s movie, but The Exorcist felt like it played a part in the scene of Will’s own “exorcism”. Actually, the scene where Nancy uses a hot poker on Will to drive the Mind Flayer out of him is how it was done in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in almost the exact same location on the body. Any Indiana Jones references are fine with me, even if it is the worst of the trilogy. Yes, trilogy – what the hell even is a crystal skull?
Finally, after all is said and done, we go to the Snow Ball, where Dustin is just a nice dude trying and failing to get a cute girl to dance with him. Did you see how much work he put into his hair? Those girls don’t know what they are missing. Nancy sees, though, and she is the one to dance with him after taking pity on him. Incredibly similar to the scene in Pretty in Pink involving Duckie and Kristy Swanson’s Duckette.
Don’t worry, I’m not gonna leave this article with the last word being “Duckette”. I felt weird even writing it. The fact it’s even in this article, twice now, amazes me. Anyway, I had a blast watching Season 2; I found it more enjoyable than Season 1 by just a tiny bit. If I was reviewing it I’d give it 9.5 nougats out of 10 musketeers.
Thanks for reading! You can find me on twitter @prostisushi if you wanna yell about how many times I said Alien.