“80’s Vibes and Gooey Bits: Your Stranger Things Season II Primer on NETFLIX”
October 20th will see the premiere of the second season—or, “Book 2”—of Netflix’s breakout hit “Stranger Things”. To get you prepared, here is a smattering of films available on the streaming service to help prepare you for the craziness. From movies released in the eighties, to ones that are soaked in that special, icky vibe. Here is what you need to watch so you can totally geek-out to all your friends and point out references in the sophomore season. Besides, it’s fun watching people navigate their lives without the aid of cell phones and the internet!
(2016, TV-MA, NETFLIX ORIGINALS)
Duh. If you haven’t watched it yet, crawl out from whatever corporate rock or communist dictator (see: spouse) that is keeping you from doing so. You don’t have to be a fan of the eighties to appreciate what the Brothers Duffer created. A young boy goes missing, and it is up to his friends—and a mysterious girl with the worst haircut in the history of girls—to save him. Creepiness abound in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and each episode, presented as a chapter (and complete with the same lettering used on most of the Stephen King books that were released during that period), is rife with dread, humor, and the unbearable heaviness and joyful freedom that comes with being an adolescent. Go watch it. NOW.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN
(1984, R, 92 minutes, NEW WORLD PICTURES)
A pre-“Thirtysomething” Peter Horton and a pre-TERMINATOR Linda Hamilton star in one of the few decent adaptations of a Stephen King short story. The two lovers are travelling across Nebraska when they run into trouble outside a small town that has been taken over by evil little bastards—I mean, kids. Most notable among these devil worshipping ankle biters is the death-dealing “Malachi” (Courtney Gains) and the creepy Isaac (John Franklin, who was actually twenty-five but totally pulled off the role of a kid, which makes it even creepier). These two characters are evil incarnate—one is a violent teen with homicide in his heart, and the other is an ageless little zealot with insanity in his eyes—and while one’s acting skills are a bit questionable, his presence more than makes up for it. Franklin, though, is a standout performer, as is Robby Kiger as the smarty-pants “Job”—scene stealers, they are. And don’t get turned off by the hokey animation and gonzo “special” effects at the end; this is an hour-and-a-half of fun. Creepy fun, but fun nonetheless.
(1984, PG, 106 minutes, WARNER BROTHERS/AMBLIN)
Joe Dante’s Christmas classic (it’s as much a seasonal favorite as DIE HARD, so don’t sass me) is the definition of eighties horror. From the humorous script (written by none other than Chris Columbus of THE GOONIES and YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES fame) to the necessary actors of that decade—including Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold before they attended RIDGEMONT HIGH, and a so-young-it-hurts Corey Feldman—this movie has it all. A young man is given a new pet for Christmas, and the rules that come with caring for this creature are brief and quite specific. Of course, rules get broken, and mayhem in the form of gleefully homicidal little monsters ensues. Tis the season anyways, so you might as well re-watch the mayhem.
(2016, NR—definitely for MATURE audiences, 90 minutes, CAVE PAINTING PICTURES)
Chockful of nods to its gory predecessors, this moody, little gem is one of the best love letters to eighties horror ever committed to celluloid. I saw only a handful of CGI effects during the entire film, which makes this horror stand out from a lot of the others. You have writers/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski to thank for that—both worked in the effects and make-up departments for SUICIDE SQUAD, “Hannibal”, and the wonderful IT. Their appreciation and attention to detail make this splatterfest a must see, especially since Netflix doesn’t have a whole lot of horror films from the eighties available to stream right now. And the camera work by cinematographer Samy Inayeh is striking—much more than you would expect for a low-budget genre film. The story centers around a small group of people stranded at a rundown hospital, which is surrounded by robed a-holes with knives who are more interested in keeping the folks inside so the interdimensional terror within can run its course. Reminiscent of THE THING, HOUSE, and EVIL DEAD—all 80’s staples currently not streaming—this one will prep you for the gooey-goings-on in the upcoming season.
(1978, R, 118 minutes, 20TH CENTURY FOX)
Director Michael Lehman (“True Blood”, “Dexter”) serves up a script by Daniel Walters (BATMAN RETURNS) which contains some of the best dialogue of any 80’s flick. The acting by Winona Ryder is a perfect complement to her performance in “Stranger Things”; here, she is a bright high school student caught in the vicious web which is inherent to school cliques, confident but doubting the motives of her popular friends (who all share the name “Heather”). In walks Christian Slater (doing his full-on Jack Nicholson impersonation), who coerces her into offing the other students who offend her moral code the most. The result is gallows humor, high school rebellion, and teen angst turned up to the Nth degree. A true classic, and again, it has Winona in it. Consider yourself primed!