Stranger Things 2: Spotting the 70s and 80s references and influences
Victoria Russell | On 12, Nov 2017Reading time: 8 mins
It’s been several weeks since Stranger Things re-entered our lives and it’s safe to say that the majority of us devoured the retrospective spectacle within just a few short days (read along with our reviews of each episode). After the first season of the smash hit show hit our screens in the summer of last year, movie moguls and retro buffs alike rejoiced in the continuous retrospection that was being offloaded on-screen. The show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, took no back seat in the unveiling of countless references and homages paid to 70s and 80s classics, from Stand By Me (1986) to E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982) – and they are no different in season 2. From new cast members to killer 80s tracks, Stranger Things 2 contains more movie nods and influences than ever:
The Exorcist (1973)
Season 2 took a much darker route, as viewers saw Will (Noah Schnapp) subjected to various forms of tests and experiments that were borderline torture. After being possessed by the Demogorgon through fits of rage, Will is strapped down to the bed by his mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), in a bid to strip him from evil – much like poor Reagan (Linda Blair) in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Joyce’s meeting with an all-male government agency also replicates the scene in which Reagan’s mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), demands to know what is wrong with her child.
Gremlins is perhaps the most prominent 80s classic to feature in the second season of Stranger Things and is primarily due to Dustin’s relationship with his new creepy comrade, Dart (aka. D’Artagnan). After Dustin discovers little Dart in a dustbin, he seeks out to make the slimy creature his new pet – but upon feeding him profusely, the little mite turns nasty. Hopper (David Harbour) also sets out three rules for Eleven while she’s hiding in his house, mirroring the three rules that apply when in the presence of a gremlin.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
As well as paying homage to Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) in the scene in which Dustin and Steve are sprawling raw meat in a bid to lure Dart – much like Sheriff Brody chumming off the side of Orca in a bid in capture the shark – the Duffer Brothers pay tribute to another of the director’s masterpieces when Will opens the front door to a skyline of blazing red fire and lightning, much like when little Barry opened his front door to a sea of yellow flood. Joyce also becomes obsessed with attempting to piece together Will’s memory of his experience in the Upside Down through sketches – much like Roy Deary’s (Richard Dreyfuss) obsession with sculpturing extra-terrestrial spaceships with mashed potato and mud from the back yard.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
It’s patent to see that E.T. The Extra Terrestrial was a direct influence on the Duffer Brothers and a chief inspiration for the Netflix show. The Steven Spielberg classic was a motif that ran throughout the entirety of the first season – primarily Eleven and Mike’s E.T. and Elliott-inspired friendship – and naturally rises again throughout Season 2. However, this time, the references are much subtler as we only notice little nods, such as Dustin’s mother dressed as a cat on Halloween (notably mirroring Dee Wallace’s mom outfit in E.T.), Eleven covering herself in a white sheet in an attempt to dress as a ghost of Halloween (E.T.’s perfect cover up) and Will stating that his favourite candy is Reece’s Pieces (as is E.T.’s).
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter seeps everywhere throughout the second series of Stranger Things – not least with a short and sweet cameo of Michael Myers himself at the high school house party. But the main Carpenter culprit in this series is Will, as his interaction with the Demogorgon has mutated to create a ‘spy’ – or host – on behalf of the creature, much like the 1982 horror flick The Thing. The shapeshifting interactions are reminiscent of Carpenter’s creature, not to mention Will’s extreme fits and reactions to the cold.
One of the season’s most beloved moments is when the gang dress as the Ghostbusters for Halloween – accompanied by full attire and Ray Parker Jr. soundtrack – while Dustin and Lucas argue about who is gets to be Stanz (Dan Akyroyd). As well as this magnificent tribute, the film shoots up again when we see a ‘Ghostbusters Certificate of Anti-Paranormal Proficiency’ hanging on Dustin’s bedroom wall – not to mention Lucas’ “It’s judgement day” one-liner.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Hopper embodies the dominant authoritative figure that is a continuous trait recognised in 70s and 80s classics. And while he certainly personifies the heroic role, he is by no means seamless and isn’t afraid to add some lip – much like the iconic Hollywood hero that is Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). This is emphasised notably when Hopper is rescued but refuses to leave without his trustee hat, after being attacked by smarmy snake-like vines in the Upside Down. Another nod to Indiana Jones is captured when Nancy and Jonathan decide whether to spend the night in their own rooms, while staying at Murray Bauman’s house – much like Indie and Willie in Temple of Doom. Nancy burning Will with a red-hot poker in a bid to save him from evil is also saluting Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) burning Indie at the hands of the Thuggee cult.
The Goonies (1985)
It’s undeniable that Bob swiftly became one of the most loved characters of Stranger Things 2, and for him to be portrayed by original Goonie, Sean Astin, is an all-time high for any kid who grew up in the 80s. Despite there being stark differences to The Goonies’ Mikey and Bob, the Stranger Things character gave a wave to all viewing Goonies fans when he asked Mike the indisputable question: “What’s the X? Pirate treasure?” In addition to this, Dustin feeding Dart nougat shines a light on Chunk and Sloth’s relationship, not to mention one of the task workers uttering “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” – similar to The Goonie’s closing line: “Holy Mary, Mother of God.”
Fans of the sci-fi franchise would’ve been the first to spot that Dr Owens was played by Paul Reiser, who is well known for his portrayal of evil scientist Carter Burke in James Cameron’s high-octane sequel. However, this time around, he surprised audiences by supporting the good guys, while Hopper and Will defeated Facehugger-like creatures in the Upside Down. An army soldier by the named of Hawkins also emulated Michael Bien’s now-famous words: “Stay frosty, boys.” Reiser is known for his role of Modell in Barry Levinson’s 1982 classic Diner too, and the actor perhaps knowingly made reference to that too, when he offered Hopper half of his sandwich.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Spielberg makes yet another appearance with blockbuster hit Jurassic Park, as the Duffer Brothers show its influence in the way the Demodogs rapidly emulate the franchise’s iconic raptors. Not only are both creatures violent, but each show their craft through hunting in groups and targeting their prey from the side rather than head-on. Similarly, the scene in which Bob is attempting to help reboot the security system sees him led through the building through an intercom and instructed by Dr Owens – mirroring John Hammond and Dr Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park.
The iconic King of Horror is noted as being one of the primary inspirations behind the brothers’ series. Notable nods in the first season included Carrie (1976), Firestarter (1984) and Stand By Me (1986), while Season 2 contained references to The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – with Dart’s underground escape route mirroring Andy Dufrense’s prison escape – The Shining (1980), through stepbrother Billy’s psychotic Jack Torrence-esque behaviour, more Stand By Me, plus IT (1990), both in Lucas’ slingshot weapon of choice and Bob’s rehashing of his childhood fear of clowns.
The love triangle sub-plot of Season 2 is undoubtedly influenced by the films of John Hughes – particularly Pretty in Pink (1986) and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). And so, when Season 2 kicked off with what appeared to be a happy relationship between Nancy and Steve, Hughes fans were sceptical and knew if they threw Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson and Mary Stuart Masterson into the mix they’d have a serious 80s high school heartache on their hands.
And a few more…
Eleven bodes a rather classic-looking bandana, Johnny Lawrence-style, a few episodes after an extra is spotted in a Karate Kid costume. She is also obligated to confront her Papa in a rather tense scene similar to the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader scene in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). And she’s spotted wearing a rather creepy mask when confronted with her sister, Eight, similar to the one Alice wears in Alice, Sweet Alice (1976). Evil stepbrother Billy, meanwhile, obtains an insanely cool attire undeniably influenced by the likes of The Lost Boys’ (1987) Kiefer Sutherland and St Elmo’s Fire’s Rob Lowe – who plays none other than the troubled bad boy Billy in Joel Schumacher’s 1985 hit – while his onscreen stepsister is named after the badass title character in Mad Max. Bitchin’.
What was your favourite movie reference in Stranger Things 2? And what did we miss?
Stranger Things 2 is available on Netflix, as part of a £8.99 monthly subscription. Watch along with our spoiler-filled reviews of future episodes here.