Stranger Things: The Body – Hopper Digs (Review)

Jonathan and Nancy in The Body

Stranger Things “The Body” aka Chapter Four, follows the aftermath of finding Will’s body in the quarry.  Hopper tells Joyce and she explains that she talked to her son two hours ago.  Joyce explains about the thing in the wall (with no face) and both Hopper and Jonathan believe she has “lost it.” Later Hopper digs deeper and learns that Joyce is not crazy after all.

Michael is snappy with El as she tunes the short wave radio.  He tells her off. Then El “finds” Will on the radio, he is singing The Clash song. Once again, as Eleven concentrates her powers, her nose bleeds.

Joyce grabs an axe from the shed and in the morning thinks she can hear Will’s voice. Michael stays home from school and he contacts Lucas.  Later Dustin, Lucas and Mike meet at his house and he tells them about El’s contacting Will  on the radio.

Joyce and Jonathan go to see Will’s body. Hopper learns that Gary, the coroner for Hawkins, was sent home and that the state are doing the autopsy. As the body is uncovered, Jonathan lurches out of the viewing room.

Will’s mother comes rushing out and tells the temporary coroner that whatever that is under the sheet, it is not her son.

At the school, Nancy and Steve talk about the faceless “man”  that may have taken Barb.  Steve wants her to drop the whole thing.  Nancy is furious with her new boyfriend and she storms off.

Jonathan confronts his mother on the street and shouts at her. He tells her he plans to bury Will.  Joyce tells Jonathan that Will is not at the morgue and she will find him and bring him home.

The boys watch El try to find Will on the radio. Lucas, as usual, is “Doubting Thomas” and Mike believes that Will is alive. He also thinks that Eleven is channeling him somehow.  They decide to smuggle El into the school to use the new stronger ham radio.

Cue the lads playing dress up with El and turning her into a “normal” girl.  Michael says she looks “pretty” before changing it to “pretty good.”  El looks into the mirror and whisper’s “pretty…good.”

The deputies question Nancy about the party. They reveal that Barb’s car is now missing. By the end of the Q&A Nancy’s mother works out that her daughter and Steve had sex.  Hopper talks to Gary and learns more about when the troopers brought Will’s body in.  He also finds out which trooper  found the boy; O’Bannon (Ron Roggé).

The boys try to get El into the ham radio room when their teacher catches them. He asks them to attend the school memorial service for their friend. Afterward, he says, they can use the radio.  The boys explain that “Eleanor”  is Mike’s cousin from Sweden.

As they enter the gym every one stops and looks. Dustin whispers, “Abort” and attempts to leave.  At the Wheeler home, Nancy and her mother argue.  She storms upstairs and puts the torn picture of Barb back together. The faceless creature is on the edge of the photo.

At the lab, the volunteer who went into the wall is still not responding. (Note: This was mentioned in the previous review.) Finally the volunteer explorer, ironically named Shepard, says that there is something in there with him. The line goes dead and  the cable attached to the man begins to whip back and forth as they reel him back in. Suddenly the line goes slack. The cable is then pulled back into the room and  the man is gone.

At the memorial for Will, Mike’s two “mouth breather” bullies laugh and giggle during the ceremony. Mike confronts Troy who calls Will a fairy. Mike pushes the bigger boy down. Troy gets to his feet, intent on hurting Mike, and El forces the bully to wet his trousers.

The “mouth breather” is humiliated.

Will looks at El who does a thumb flick of her nose a’la  “Bruce Lee.”

Jonathan is looking at coffins when Nancy shows up with the repaired picture. They both describe the thing she saw at Steve’s place together.

Hopper questions O’Bannon about finding Will’s body. The chief  catches the state trooper out in a lie and things turn physical. Hopper learns that the other cop was told not to let anyone get too close to the body.

Joyce tries to “summon” Will as the kids use the ham radio to channel him. El has another flashback to the lab. As Joyce makes contact with Will, El channels the missing boy.

Joyce rips away the wallpaper and can see Will in the wall.  Something is coming and the children at the school can hear both Will and the approaching thing.  Joyce tells Will to run and she fearlessly attacks the wall with the axe.

The wall seals back up as the ham radio catches fire at the school. El has exhausted herself and the boys have to wheel her out of the building. Joyce hacks a hole in the side of her house.

Jonathan and Nancy bond in the developing room and find a better rendering of the faceless “man.”  Hopper goes to the morgue and after knocking out the state trooper left behind, examines Will’s body.

Joyce was right all along, the corpse is made of plastic or latex and stuffed with cotton wool. It is not Will.

Lonnie Byers (Ross Partridge) comes to see his ex-wife and Hopper starts cutting an hole in the fence surrounding the research facility. 

This episode of Stranger Things has a Poltergeist feel to it.  But  leaving aside all clever homages and nod and winks to other works in the genre, the plot is definitely about parallel worlds. The E.T. element is still there, that bike scene with the “alien” El on the back was a clear allusion to the Spielberg classic.

Stranger Things is easily the best drama/horror show on at the moment.  It is tempting to race through and watch the entire series in one long sitting but why rush through something so good?   Brilliant telly and excellent performances all around.

The scene between Joyce and Will, behind the wall, was a tissue grabber.

Netflix is offering the entire season right now. Head over and check this one out.

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Stranger Things Chapter Three: Holly Jolly – Silent Hill-ish (Review)

Finding Will...in Stranger Things

Each episode of Stranger Things appears give a sly nod and wink to existing horror films and/or video games. In this instance “Chapter Three: Holly Jolly” thrusts the viewer into a Silent Hill-ish environment at the very start of the episode. It is also evocative of Stephen King’s  “From a Buick Eight,” not the overall plot but the subplot or plot device  of an alternative world. Something  that King’s book and this  series, also have in common with Silent Hill.

(Fans of the game Silent Hill will recall that the alternative world was in James’ head, for all intents and purposes, but that is still  a parallel or alternate setting nonetheless)

It would not be surprising to find that Will has been taken into a parallel world. Take away the falling ash, a’la Silent Hill the 2006  film and the theme is of another dimension. A place where Will is hiding from the faceless creature who chased the boy to his home and took Barb.

(Speaking of nods and winks in relation to Stephen King: Look at  the scene where the explorer goes into the alien looking entrance with a cable attached to his suit.  Just as the brave chap discovers some growly thing is in there with him,  the cable begins to whip back and forth and whirl about in circles.  Dr. Brenner orders the man reeled in and the cable suddenly goes limp.  At the end of the cable, instead of the explorer there is a bloody bit of suit. Who did not think of  Stephen King’s “The Mist?”)

It is all too tempting to watch Stranger Things just to find out how many loving homages the Duffer Brothers have included.  However, the storyline itself is the main attraction here. In this installment, for example, more is learned about Eleven.

We find out  that the girl’s powers are enormous. She kills  the two technicians who take her to the room, after refusing to kill a cat.  She also suffers nose bleeds, or leaks blood from her ears, when she uses her power.

*Sidenote* The funniest bit in the series thus far was Dustin holding the Millennium Falcon model up and releasing it so Eleven could  make it fly.  The thing drops to the floor twice as the girl looks blankly at Dustin. Later, when she is on her own, the model is floating in the air while she fiddles with the handheld radio. Very funny indeed.

Joyce Byers learns that she can talk to Will via the lights.  Her son Jonathan believes that she is having a breakdown. She puts up Christmas lights and uses them to communicate with her missing son.

Eleven explores MIke’s house while he is at school. (Another funny bit has Mike frustratedly bellowing at his mother when she tells him to hurry up, again.)  This is used to tell us more about Eleven.  Some things are not clear, such as her emotional reaction to the music box and the pictures on Nancy’s wall. Her interactions with things in the house peel back more layers.

MIke’s mother, along with his little sister Holly,  bring Joyce a casserole. The little girl goes into Will’s room and the thing in the wall reaches for her.  Joyce realizes that Holly actually saw the creature in the wall as well.  She sends the two away.

Steve and his friends rip up Jonathan’s pictures of the party  and break his camera.  Nancy is not impressed and she starts to help Byers pick up the torn photos. Later, when she expresses  concern for  her missing friend, Steve turns out to be a bit of a douche.

Eleven re-lives the cat episode, triggered by the cat she sees behind Mike’s house.  We learn that the child was monitored and observed. She was put through trials and forced to use her powers.  (Once again, a little reminiscent of another King book and protagonist;  “Firestarter” and Charlie McGee.)

Nancy goes to Steve’s house and finds Barb’s car. She goes into the woods behind his pool  and sees the faceless creature that took Will and her friend.  Joyce speaks to Will using the Christmas Lights. Eleven takes the boys to Will’s house and as the boys argue, the police and an ambulance zoom past.

Will tells his mother that he is “right here” and then tells Joyce to “run.” The faceless thing claws its way out of the wall and chases Joyce into the night.  The three boys and Eleven follow the police to the local quarry.

They watch in horror as Will’s body is taken from the water. Mike is furious with Eleven and accuses her of lying about his missing friend.

Stranger Things is clearly about parallel worlds or universes.  The clues are all there. Take for example the name of Dr. Brenner’s testing facility  and the town it is located in – Hawkins. This is very close to “Hawking” as in Professor Stephen Hawking, who touts the theory that black holes may lead to parallel universes.

Just a thought…

Kudos to Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown. When the Emmys roll around for this year, both these performers should be getting gongs for their performance.   Ryder and Brown managed to evoke laughter and tears in Chapter Three alone.

There are five episodes left of this Netflix series and many viewers have already binged the entire season. For those who cannot bear for this to be over just yet, join us as we watch one episode at a time.

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Stranger Things: Eerie, Indiana Darkly (Review)

Winona Ryder in Stranger Things

Stranger Things feels like a journey through Eerie, Indiana darkly.  The horror/thriller is set in 1983 and has a great blend of humor, nostalgia and a  behind the scenes dose of irony.  Two of the show’s protagonists, Matthew Modine and Winona Ryder had breakout roles in  the late 80s.  Modine playing Joker in Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Ryder paying Lydia Dietz in Beetlejuice (1988).

In another touch of irony, Modine appears to work for a sinister governmental agency.  Joker has grown up  and become a man in black for Uncle Sam (although to be fair, it  looks like Modine’s character is a doctor…in black.)

The Duffer Brothers have produced something that is a mix of horror and science fiction featuring  a look back at the 80s with its brilliant music and Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  Apart from feeling like “Eerie, Indiana” (sans Marshall Teller and the tongue-in-cheek humor and in-jokes) Stranger Things is also evocative of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Modine’s Dr. Brenner being the show’s Peter Coyote character and Ryder as a dark haired Dee Wallace-type mother figure makes the whole thing complete. (Eleven could even be the female version of Elliot only this time the child appears to be fully connected with the alien…)

The opening episode starts in Hawkins, Indiana with “Chapter One; The Vanishing of Will Byers.” The US Department of Energy at Hawkins has a problem; a man in a white lab coat runs down a corridor as an alarm sounds. Reaching the elevator he gets in only to be grabbed and lifted from view.

(At the time of the scientist’s apparent demise a series of clicking insectile noises are heard, a nod to SyFy’s Hunters perhaps?)

At Mike’s house he and his friends Lucas, Will and Dustin are finishing up a 10 hour stint of D&D.  The lads have to stop their game and Dustin offers Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyera slice of pizza, someone has a crush. Will tells Mike the final number thrown was a seven;  the demogorgon, he says,  got him.

Shortly after something else gets Will. He races Dustin home and pulls out ahead. Riding past the energy facility a tall alien type figure appears after his lights flicker. Will crashes his bike. Running home he grabs a rifle and loads it. As he aims the weapon the light in the shed flares up and Will vanishes.

Dr. Brenner and a team inspect the energy lab and he is told that not only did  the “alien” escaped but so did “the girl.” The young lady in question arrives at a diner/cafe wearing a torn hospital gown. The barefoot child enters through the back and starts eating french fries. The owner grabs her.

Later he feeds the starving girl and starts asking her name and where she is from. He learns that her name is Eleven. He calls the child welfare agency and asks for help. Eleven appears to have special “talents.”

In town Chief Hopper is about to have his day ruined when Joyce comes in to report her son Will missing. Joyce is a single mother who relies on her eldest son to help run things.  The D&D crew discover that Will is not at school and we learn that they are bullied.

At the school Dustin shows he can yank his shoulder out of its socket. Something that will probably be crucial at some point in the near future.

Nancy, Mike’s older sister, is dating Steve and he is a guy more interesting in making out than doing anything else.  Joyce meets with Hopper and the search for Will begins.  Hopper finds the boy’s bike.

At the cafe, a woman shows up claiming to be from he agency. As the owner says she sounds different in person, she shoots him with a silenced pistol. Eleven heads for the back exit only to be stopped by two men with guns.

Out front Brenner comes in the building and there is a noise out back. Heading to the rear of the diner they find the two men  laying on the floor and the girl gone.

The search for Will continues and his friends decide to help. In the wet woods they stumble across Eleven.

Stranger Things looks to be a good one.  Ryder is always excellent in what ever role she appears in and Modine  has thus far impressed as well. David Harbor is effective as the grief stricken police chief and the child actors are holding their own.

The series is a Netflix original and, as is the custom, all episodes are streaming at the moment.   The season one open has started off very well and this one seems to be  one to watch.

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