'Stranger Things 4': A Guide to Major Pop Culture References

This article contains major spoilers for Season 4 of “Stranger Things.” See some references we missed? Tell us about them in the comme...


This article contains major spoilers for Season 4 of “Stranger Things.” See some references we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section.

After almost a three-year hiatus, Netflix has brought subscribers back to the world of “stranger thingswith the first seven episodes of Season 4, which fell on Friday. (The final two land July 1.) Again, its creators, the duffer brothersfrolic through a nostalgic sandbox of pop culture references to the era in which it is set, which is now early 1986.

Below we have collected many of the main talking points from Season 4, but we leave out some foundational texts by Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, John Hughes and John Carpenter, which have been identified and endlessly discussed. . with previous seasons. (Let’s just say “It,” “ET,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “The Thing” continue to be influences.) So pour yourself a tab, fire up your dial-up modem, and take a look.

The series has used the “Alien” films as an influence from the start, and it extends some of that love to David Fincher’s much-maligned 1992 entry by taking his hero to a distant prison that happens to have something like an alien, too. David Harbor has abandoned name “Alien 3” as an influence on his arc this season, and when Hopper tries to rally other bald inmates to fight a deadly creature, it’s hard not to imagine Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the same role. Influential artist HR Giger and the films that turned his creature into nightmare fuel will likely be influential until the end, but one has to wonder how they’ll find a way to incorporate ‘Alien: Resurrection’ into Season 5. (Or maybe “Prometheus”!)

In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into a home in Amityville, NY, the site of a brutal murder just over a year earlier when Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family. They fled less than a month later, claiming the house was haunted. The murder of the Creel family in ‘Stranger Things 4’ is an obvious nod to films that have been made based on this ‘real’ story – particularly Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 film – and the design of the house of the Vecna ​​monster is similar to that of Amityville. A VHS copy of the first Family Video movie can also be spotted in the season premiere episode.

No one is going to laugh at El (Millie Bobby Brown) after she smashes a girl’s face with a roller skate. Stephen King’s 1974 novel “Carrie” and Brian De Palma’s 1976 screen adaptation were touchstones for El from the start, but the intimidating aspect of the original tale amplifies the connection with El’s journey through the first two episodes of “Stranger Things 4.” Much like Carrie White suffered from beatings at her school, El is violently abused in class, in the hallways, and ultimately on the rink, she doesn’t fight back with her powers like Carrie did…but that’s not for lack of control. have tried.

Early in the season, Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) joke about this 1965 Best Picture winner by David Lean; Steve protests anything that takes two VHS tapes to watch, and Robin argues that Julie Christie’s beauty and doomed love story are worth it. It’s kind of fun for both characters, but it also seems intentional that the film is set in the snowy climate of Russia, a major setting for “Stranger Things 4.”

Dungeons & Dragons role-playing, the Hellfire Club’s lifeblood, influences the storytelling this season more than ever. On one level, Season 4’s plot unfolds like a D&D story, as a search party embarks on a fantasy quest to defeat a powerful supernatural villain – especially as the kids enter the Upside Down. after Steve. But the references are also more explicit. For starters, kids refer to the sprawling monster at the center of this season as Vecna, a D&D monster. And the satanic panic that grew around the game in the mid-’80s becomes an important part of the story, as a series of brutal murders prompts the people of Hawkins to gather pitchforks for anyone who plays the game.

Again, Steve’s workplace provides a plethora of references to films of the era, particularly films that would have been announced in such a venture in early 1986. This season we see posters for “Teen Wolf “, “The Coca-Cola Kid,” “The Man in the Red Shoe,” “Weird Science,” and a well-placed for “The Last Dragon,” which serves as the backdrop for Steve and Robin’s conversation about their romantic woes in episode 2. proper presenters all over the store, including for “Beverly Hills Cop,” “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” “Gremlins” and “The Outsiders.”

The Duffer Brothers cited this 1982 coming-of-age film as an influence before, and he feels embedded in the SoCal stoner comedy interplay between Argyle (Eduardo Franco) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) this season. Everyone remembers the time Sean Penn’s character Spicoli had a pizza delivered to his class, and one can imagine said tasty treat being delivered by Argyle in his Surfer Boy Pizza van. Of course, Steve also mentions the movie in the season premiere, noting that a girl Robin is interested in kicked off the VHS tape at precisely 53:05, a key moment for fans of Phoebe Cates.

There’s No El Without Charlie, the telekinetic heroine of Stephen King’s 1980 novel, who is played by Drew Barrymore in a 1984 film by Mark L. Lester (with music by Tangerine Dream, a great influence on the synthetic score of “Stranger Things”. ). Once again, the story is a point of reference from the start, but it feels even richer this season considering El’s arc’s part involving nefarious government organizations trying to harness his power, everything. as the shop continues its superpowered creation in King’s book.

Carpenter influenced “Stranger Things” from the start, but his 1978 masterpiece “Halloween” gets literal name checking in the second episode when Nancy (Natalia Dyer) discovers Victor Creel, a figure who has become as much of an urban legend in Hawkins as Michael Myers. In the film Carpenter, Myers murdered his sister before escaping from a mental hospital years later. Victor Creel doesn’t come home like Myers, but the concept of a suburban boogeyman feels like a nod to this horror classic.

It wouldn’t be released for another year (1987), but the slatted wood of Vecna’s attic, as well as his attachment to the house he grew up in, is reminiscent of this unsettling horror film inspired by Clive Barker’s sadomasochism. It doesn’t hurt that Vecna ​​feeds on pain and need, just like Pinhead and his otherworldly pals. It will tear your soul apart.

“Stranger Things” has always used music effectively – remember the Clash “Should I stay or should I go?” in season 1 or “The never ending story” by Limahl in season 3? This season’s biggest earworm is Kate Bush’s “Run up that hill,” which appears several times in Max’s (Sadie Sink) headphones and in the climax of episode 4. It’s a song that was also used effectively in a 1988 movie called “The Chocolate War”, based on a book someone Max’s age may have read in 1986. A cool connection between Bush and the world of this series is her love of Stephen King’s “The Shining,” a book she responded to so strongly that she wrote “Get out of my house” on this.

In Episode 6, Dustin convinces the gang to search for a door that might have opened at Vecna’s most recent crime scene, and Eddie suggests that his D&D buddy ask him to go to Mordor, saying that “the county is burning”. Of course, these are references to JRR Tolkien’s seminal fantasy books. It seems like more than a nod when you consider Vecna’s Sauron-like power to see what’s going on around Hawkins and the Mordor-like place he calls home.

In the season premiere, Hellfire Club frontman Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) gives a speech atop a cafeteria table to “I was a teenage werewolf” by the Cramps, but it’s the song the Duffers drop behind him a few beats later that draws a line to that 1987 vampire flick by Kathryn Bigelow starring Bill Paxton. Everyone who has seen this film remembers the use of the Cramp “fever” and Eddie’s outfit resembles one that might be worn by his band of nomadic bloodsuckers. Considering Steve asks in Episode 6 if Vecna ​​might in fact be a vampire – and considering how the villain sucks blood from his victims – the connection isn’t overstated.

This 1984 horror hit by Wes Craven is arguably the biggest influence on Season 4. Not only is this chapter about an immortal being who can enter people’s minds to kill them, but the actor who plays Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund, appears as the tormented Victor Creel in episode 4. There’s also a standee of Freddy at Family Video, and the death of Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) in the premiere – thrown from the ceiling of the Eddie’s trailer – is clearly meant to mimic the tina’s death (Amanda Wyss) in the movie Craven. Even the characters capture the corollary between their enemy and Freddy; Dustin suggests in Episode 5 that Vecna ​​may have a “boiler room”, a place like Krueger’s, i.e. a mental lair where he can be defeated.

When the caretaker at Pennhurst Psychiatric Hospital explains the rules of conduct to Robin and Nancy regarding meeting Victor Creel, it echoes similar warnings given to Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in this 1991 best adaptation by Jonathan Demme from the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris. And then there’s the hallway, which seems designed to be reminiscent of the one that houses Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) at its end, with a brick wall on one side and a nervous patient in one of the three cells above that of Viktor.

Any TV show or movie set in the 1980s that plays with a Russian menace thwarted by teenagers is bound to remember this 1983 hit by John Badham starring Matthew Broderick. But the Duffers go even further in episode 5 when Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Jonathan call a mysterious number and realize it’s a computer. Not only do they name “Wargames” as a way for others to figure out what’s going on, but the Duffers add some of that movie’s score as Mike goes on to explain the plan to enlist Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo), the Dustin’s tech-savvy and religiously conflicted girlfriend.

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