Stranger Things: The Monster – Firestarter & Carrie (Review)

Eleven in Stranger Things

With just two episodes left, Stranger Things has cranked everything up. In “Chapter Six: The Monster” the show slips ever deeper into Stephen King Land as the plot encompasses Carrie and Firestarter. Granted the “Carrie “connection has been there from the start. Not in a teenage girl going through a nuclear meltdown way but with El’s telekinesis and telepathic powers. “Firestarter” is represented through college drug tests  which left Eleven (Jane) with “super powers.”

Eleven is a combination of Carrie  White and Charley McGee but with a lot more control of her abilities than either of King’s two female protagonists. This is a 12 year old girl who can, with a twist of her head, break a grown man’s neck. If El were Carrie she would do much more to that little town and her perceived bullies in that walk home.

This episode starts with Nancy still trapped in the upside/down place (Silent Hill still seems more apropos with that “ash” falling down around a decaying environment…).  Jonathan shouts for her to follow the sound of his voice.

Her hand shoots out of the tree, where she climbed through like a teen Alice venturing into a horrid wonderland, and scares Jonathan, and us. He pulls her out of the tree and for an instant we are plunged into the original Poltergeist and Carol Anne being pulled out of her other-worldly dimension.

This is a busy episode. Everyone rushing here and there learning things. We learn  about the missing Ives girl,  that mouth breathers come in all sizes and that teen love makes you very aggressive.  We also witness the great Hawkins Eggo robbery of 1983.

Sheriff Hopper and Joyce Byers:

The sheriff and Joyce track down Terry Ives.  The woman  who claimed that the government agency took her baby away. Jane Ives, according to her mother’s statements, has special powers.

Hopper and Byers meet Terry (Aimee Mullins) and her sister. Terry is in a fugue state, not talking or communicating. Her mind blown by her daughter’s disappearance. They learn about CIA drug trials that Terry took part in from her sister. 

In a nod to the 1980 horror sci-fi film Altered States, after Terry and the other volunteers were drugged up, they were placed in isolations tanks.  Terry’s sister tells Hopper and Joyce that Jane was never born.

The hospital said that the baby was lost in its third trimester. Terry has always denied her child’s death.

Jonathan and Nancy:

The two teens go to set up a monster hunting kit. (They even tell the man at the till that is what they are doing.) Before the purchases of cartridges, bear traps and a few other odds and ends, the two spend the night together at Nancy’s house.

Steve sees the two of them on Nancy’s bed and believes the worst. The next day he and his friends write that Nancy is a slut on the local theatre marquee. She confronts Steve and he goes after Jonathan.

Nancy’s former boyfriend taunts him about his mother and Will. Jonathan snaps and beats Steven down. The cops arrive and one of them s inadvertently punched by Byers. The angry teen  gets put in cuffs and arrested. Steve and his two pals escape.

Lucas, Mike, El and Dustin:

After last week’s dustup, where El threw Lucas off of Mike and then disappeared, Mike is upset that El is still missing.  Dustin attempts to put things right between his two friends  by forcing Mike to apologize to Lucas.

It all falls apart when Lucas refuses to accept unless El is forced out of the group. The lads split. Lucas is determined to find Will himself.  Dustin and Mike head through the woods shouting for El who is eating her stolen Eggo’s.

The two mouth breathers follow the two younger boys to the woods. They chase them to the quarry where one pulls a knife. Dustin goes on the attack and gets grabbed. Troy tells Mike that unless he jumps off the edge of the quarry, he will start removing all of Dustin’s baby teeth.

Mike jumps.

El saves him and then breaks Troy’s arm with her mind. The two lads run off as Dustin shouts at them not to return.  He yells that their friend is crazy and will “kill you,  you sons of bitches.”

Meanwhile, Lucas discovers that the the villains are all using cable repair vans to search for El.

Eleven is clearly Jane Ives and she does have special powers. These are what allowed her to unlock the gate and let the monster through. She tells Mike that she is the monster. El is in tears over the guilt.  she feels responsible  for the creature getting Will.

Mike tell El that she is not the monster and he hugs the girl. After a moment Dustin joins in.

The Periphery:

Under random thoughts and observations there are the references to classics in the horror genre. John Carpenter’s The Thing film poster features prominently in Mike’s room. The story line has many nods to films in the horror genre.

The music and score to the series is straight from the ’80s. There is a Silent Hill tribute combined with techno beat synth sounds  that places the series firmly in the 1980s.

Mr. Clarke is approached by that female agent in an attempt to lock down the three lads and find Eleven.  Brenner’s men all arms themselves as if going into battle for a country when they head out to recapture Eleven.

And Finally:

Stranger Things is cracking television. The only real complaint is that this first season is only eight episodes.  The Duffer Bros have created a show that is mesmerizing.  The cast, especially the youngsters in the show are off the chain in terms of performances.

Wynona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown have both  moved viewers to tears more than once in this season.  Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton just killed it in this episode.

Stranger Things  is on Netflix. All episodes are there for viewing in one go. If however, one episode at a time is how you roll then take your time and savor this splendid offering.

, CAST:

Stranger Things: The Weirdo on Maple Drive – Demogorgon (Review)

Winona Ryder as Joyce in Stranger Things

Chapter  two of Stranger Things “The Weirdo on Maple Drive” shifted firmly into E.T. territory with 11 as E.T. and Mike as Elliot. The only thing missing is that elongated bulbous finger and that cute/ugly mug and 11 has about the same knowledge of the English language as well. Although she quickly gets the concept of D&D and the demogorgon being the big bad who is after Will.

The previous chapter saw the death of Benny,  the owner of the hamburger shop, which was made to look like a suicide in this installment and the appearance of 11 right after Will went missing.  Joyce got a phone call that she believes was from her youngest and it fried her phone.

Joyce Byers is struggling to keep in control of her emotions and she manages to have  the funniest moment in the episode. Going into her place of work she gets another telephone, to replace the fried one, and  Joyce asks her boss for an advance to pay for it. She also asks for two weeks pay and he hesitates. After some hedging about paying her temporary replacement, she shames him into agreeing. Flushed with her small success Joyce then  blurts out:

“And a pack of Camels.”

Sticking with Joyce for a moment, there is something intrinsically likable about the slightly scatty single mother of two. A mom who can communicate with her youngest and enjoys both her kids equally.

11 is at MIke’s house and the drenched girl is scared and confused. The trio of boys attempt to communicate, although Lucas starts to get a bit too physical and Dustin decides the girl is deaf.

Another humorous moment occurs when Mike gives  11 dry clothes. She immediately starts to change in front of the boys and both Lucas and Dustin freak out.  Mike shows her to the bathroom and offers to close the door. She agrees to having it open a crack and she changes. Comically, after Dustin has time to think about it, he is obsessed with the idea of 11’s nudity.

While Joyce is out getting her two weeks advance and another phone, there is a real E.T. moment where Dr. Brenner and his crew show up at the Byers’ residence in white hazmat suits. All that is missing are the giant white tubes and the house being encased in white sheeting.

Brenner heads to the shed, another E.T. touch sans candy, and discovers some goo on the walls.

Meanwhile Nancy is invited to party at Steve’s place and she accepts. She also offers her sympathy to Will’s older brother Jonathan.  Mike stays home from school to look after 11 and, once again, this takes on an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial tinge. Mike Wheeler showing off his dinosaur collection and the ending bit with the T-Rex is very evocative of the Elliot “plastic” shark scene.

Hopper continues to search for Will and he also starts investigating the suicide of his friend Benny.  Jonathan goes to see if his little brother is at his dad’s house and later stops to take pictures where Will went missing.

Joyce hooks her new phone up and sits down with the  instrument in her lap and waits for Will to call her again.  He does and this time Joyce hears his voice clearly. The new phone is fried like the first. She then hears music coming from Will’s room and she sees his lights are on as well.

She goes into her son’s room and sees something bulging out of the wall, a’la The Haunting of Hill House or A Nightmare on Elm Street. This terrifies the woman and Joyce rushes from the  house and starts her car.  The music and lights come on again and she hesitantly walks back to he house and goes in the front door.

Hopper learns of “the boy” at Benny’s diner before he died and earlier the police chief says he feels cursed. Nancy talks her best friend Barb (Shannon Purser) into going with her to Steve’s (Joe Keery) party. 

At the party Nancy is having fun while Barb is feeling pretty left out.  Jonathan stumbles across the party and takes pictures.  Steve and Nancy “chug” a beer and she urges Barb to try. Barbara cuts her finger and while she is stopping the bleeding Nancy is pushed into the pool.

Later Nancy tells her friend to go home. Instead Barbara sits on the diving board dripping blood from her finger into the pool. The lights go  out and some growling thing grabs Barb and takes her away.

Jonathan misses it.

Mike and his friends learn that Eleven has “superpowers.” One of her powers seems to be the ability to know which character Will plays in Dungeons and Dragons.   The lads ask eleven if she knows where their friend is. She tell them that Will is hiding. They then ask from who.

Turning the game board over she places Will’s character in the center of the black board. She then places the demogorgon next to “Will.”

More is revealed about Eleven in this installment. She calls Dr. Brenner “Poppa” and she was put into a small dark room, presumably as punishment.  This disturbing flashback shed a lot of light on her relationship with the doctor.  She can also speak but thus far her vocabulary is limited.

Observations:

The two big ’80s songs, and bands, in this episode were The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade Of Winter.”  (The next chapter features an ’80s classic; Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”)

Joyce is going to run out of her two week advance pretty quickly if she has to keep replacing her phones. Brenner and his crew have bugged Joyce’s house and Hopper may be led to Brenner based on evidence found in the woods.

So far there have been two disappearances and one death attributed to the electrical company and its lab.

Stranger Things is streaming on Netflix and all eight episodes are available to watch right now.  Check this one out. The acting is top notch, especially the younger members of the cast and the storyline is addictive and nostalgic to the extreme.

CAST:

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