Wednesday, 22 February 2017

virtual reality and stranger things

Having recently turbo-cycled through the Stranger Things series on Netflix, it has been fun to spot the numerous references to other movies and genres during its episodes. A sci-fi show set in the 1980s, so before the prevalence of mobile phones and other gadgets.

Right from the Star Wars like montage of the promotional poster, it is clear to see that this series has many sci-fi and horror influences. A primary styling influence is E.T. with wider Spielberg hat-tips such as the 'drop of blood' Jaws component.

There's oodles of other references, from Alien face huggers, Firestarter psychic powers and nosebleeds, pre-cog tank floatation from Minority Report, Altered State morphing, Under the Skin's black event horizon (yep that is Scarlett Johansson below), clicking pre-striking Predator sounds, boy buddies like in Super 8. Then there's a short sequence which plays the melody line from Twin Peaks (I had to rewind to check I'd heard it) and the titles for the whole show come straight from the cover of any Stephen King novel.

The list goes on and we even get posters from other movies on various bedroom walls, in one case even declared 'inappropriate' by the Dad character.

In a movie like Under the Skin, the female lead gets a strong character part. In Stranger Things, despite including female lead roles there is also some utilitarian and unsympathetic writing. Without wishing to spoiler it, there's at least one unlamented disappearance.

It all makes the main plot line of the series a bit Scooby-Doo, with various episodic adventures involving scary buildings, bear traps and sundry weaponry. It's like a a few recent series I've watched which seem to break out guns and rifles just a bit too readily. I suppose the succession of episode writers are given a start and end position and x minutes to improvise with their characters and the locations.

There's even a set of those mysterious scientists that work in an anonymous building on the edge of town. And a quasi-governmental Agency able to do just about anything.

The series has clearly been popular and there's a current countdown already running for its sequel. I notice the countdown scrolls like a VR screen. Like any good scary movie, the obvious thing is 'look behind' and find the vintage television running an upside down show, which gives some further clues about Series 2.

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