Stranger Things: The Upside Down – Aliens and It (Review)

Jonathan, Joyce and Nancy

What a season finale.  Stranger Things threw every horror/sci fi reference possible into their last episode. “The Upside Down” had shades of Aliens, It,  Silent Hill,  Nightmare on Elm Street, and even Christine.  (And the hospital bed scene with Will could be a nod to Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, which throws fantasy into the mix.)

Will has a tentacle down his throat, like Newt in Aliens. Lucas shoots the monster with a wrist rocket, a’la Beverly Marsh in Stephen King’s It. The upside down is Silent Hill sans the fog, in Stranger Things the world is dark but has the falling ash from the film.

Just like the protagonists in King’s Christine, despite Jonathan and Nancy battling the monster, with a little help form Steve (redemption with a nail studded baseball bat) and going through so much together, they do not end up as a couple. Nancy gets back with rich kid Steve. Very disappointing.

By the end of the episode, Will is back, but he is a bit different. Something has hitched a ride back with the boy.  (There is another Silent Hill moment where the bathroom suddenly changes.  The video game has  numerous instances of normal restrooms and bathrooms suddenly turning all, well, Silent Hill-ish.) There is a specked slug and along with the hopeful note of  El possibly surviving there is a stomach clenching one where Will coughs up that bit of nasty from his own throat.

The finale of Stranger Things was a brilliant action fest.  Everyone was busily trying to defeat the monster, save El, retrieve El, or find Will.  Mike and Eleven share a first kiss and naughty Dr. Brenner (“Bad Poppa”) gets his face bitten off by the monster.

Eleven shows how powerful she really is by killing a slew of villainous government employees in one fell swoop.

We learn how Hopper’s daughter died, just one of many tissue box moments, and the police chief shows a deeper shade of brave when he stands up to Brenner’s associates.  Although it looks like he made some sort of deal as they come back for the chief later.

Granted, the scientist believed that both Hopper and Joyce would die in the upside down. Or at the very least never return, which amounts to the same thing.

The battle between Nancy, Jonathan, and eventually Steve, and the creature  was brilliant. It could have been scripted by Stephen King (who will, according to a number of sites, be writing the new season) and it was a show stopper.

(Sidenote: It was all “Nightmare on Elm Street” this bit.  Replicating, to a huge degree, Nancy’s battle with Freddy Krueger.)

Steve turns out to be a good guy after all. Sadly, his two douche-y friends are not gobbled up by the monster.

Eleven destroys the upside down monster and disappears.  This is a major downer except that Hopper seems to have some sort of inside info going. Why else would he drop off Eggos for the girl in a box, in the woods?

Stranger Things was a brilliant series.  It blew up on social media and has generated enough articles already to guarantee instant classic status.  Netflix have already greenlit a second season and the young actors have earned star status for their work in the show.

Brit actress Millie Bobby Brown is beyond adorable and the kid can act her little cotton socks off. The rest the youngsters are no slouches in the acting department either.

It has been a great ride with the protagonists, and the villainous Dr. Brenner, and despite the urge to binge the entire season, doing one episode a week worked out very well in the end.

As far as the Internet and television are concerned, the series has been over for some time. The “kids from Stranger Things” were on Jimmy Fallon’s tonight show and did a skit, an interview and a silly string game.  It looks like Dustin (Matarazzo) may be enjoying his fame a tad too much.

We leave you with the “Barb Returns” segment from Jimmy Fallon while we wait impatiently for season two of Stranger Things.


Stranger Things: The Bathtub – Spielberg and Carpenter (Recap/Review)


Stranger Things “The Bathtub” has Lucas as Paul Revere “The bad men are coming,” and starts off with a full on attack of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. (Before going into the episode, does anyone else see that scrap yard and not think of Stephen King’s Uncle Otto’s Truck?)

The episode begins with Eleven and Mike sharing a moment and almost kissing.  Dustin arrives and interrupts this tender moment with news of Lucas’ incoherent transmission.  Lucas is excitedly telling his friends that all the bad men are coming.

Cue a Spielberg “E.T” moment where the kids escape on their bicycles. In this instance, however, the bikes do not fly, an oncoming van does. All the kids meet up and the van attempts to head them off.  El flips the thing right over the bicycles and the trio escape from Brenner and his heavily armed men.

You have to hand it to Lucas. He only really accepts Eleven after she saves their bacon by blocking their pursuers with the van.  Lucas also makes up with Mike. He shows his friends what he found on the other side of that fence as  Brenner’s helicopters start sweeping the area for El.

The kids hide out in the scrap yard school bus as the choppers fly overhead.

Joyce and Hopper arrive at the police station and she is furious to find Jonathan in handcuffs.  The chief is shown the articles in Jonathan’s trunk and the two have a talk.  Mike’s house is invaded by the Brenner “men in black” and they begin to question his mother and father about Eleven.

They tell his worried parents that he is in danger.  Brenner asks that they trust him.

Joyce tells Jonathan off for trying to fix things on his own. The mouth-breater; Troy (Peyton Wich) is brought into the police station by his irate and overbearing mother. He describes Eleven to Chief Hopper and he realizes that she is hanging out with the boys. 

Steve (Joe Keeryhas a falling out with his two jerk friends.  (Sidenote: The makeup on Harding’s face is brilliant.  The blood looks real and his entire face looks sore.)

Backed by  music that is evocative of an entire catalogue of ’80s horror films (Like The  Night of the Comet, for instance), Hopper enlists the help of Nancy to track Mike down and help the kids to escape Brenner and his men.

(Speaking of music, the use of  a John  Carpenter type score, during the school bus scene   – i.e.  the two bass notes used in “The Thing” – sets up Hopper’s almost comic rescue perfectly.)

The kids meet up with Nancy, Jonathan and Joyce. Mike explains the flea and the acrobat. Hopper recognizes the description of the lab and Eleven agrees to find Will and Barb. She cannot.

El suggests they  build a makeshift isolation chamber and Dustin  gets some guidance from Mr. Clarke.

(Amusingly, Clarke is watching “The Thing” with his girlfriend, or wife, when Dustin calls about building the sensory deprivation tank, “for fun.”)

The group make their “tank” after taking the town’s de-icing salt supply and Joyce’s wading pool.  Eleven is given a set of goggles covered with duct tape to help her in the tank.

Mike and Nancy lie to each other about how they feel toward Jonathan and Eleven. During the entire process, Joyce is the quintessential mother, soothing El before the experiment. Later, when Eleven finds Barb dead, Joyce calms the girl down.

After El finds the slime covered dead body of Barb,  she  then finds “Castle Byers” and Will. He does not have long left and the alien thing discovers the building, Eleven and Will before everything dissolves.

Heartbreakingly, when El finds Will, Joyce tells her to tell the boy she is coming for him. Will murmurs, “Hurry.”

Hopper starts to leave. He plans on heading to Castle Byers, it is in the woods behind the Byers’ house, and Joyce forces the chief to take her along. Nancy tells Jonathan that they have to get their monster gear from the station.

Nancy  tells Jonathan she wants to kill it.   As Hopper and Joyce enter the fenced off area the two older kids grab their stuff from the station.  The chief and Joyce are caught and Will is being hunted by the creature in the upside-down.

In this penultimate episode, everything has gone spectacularly wrong. The grownups have been caught and Will has been found by the alien predator.  It looks like it may be up to Jonathan and Nancy to save the day.

Stranger Things is a Netflix series available to watch all in one go. If you have been watching  the show one episode at a time, there is one left to finish up the season.   The series has proven wildly popular with audiences and has already been greenlit for a second season.

Kudos, once again, to Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown for creating yet another tissue grabbing moment, or two.  Mad props to the entire cast are in order as well. The talented actors all bring this meta horror series to living breathing life.


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