Saving Willy (well trying to)
No hommage to the early 80s would be complete without a reference to A Nightmare on Elm Street, so here’s The Weirdo on Maple Street, aka Eleven, brought home by Mike,the kid who’s not black (Lucas) or handicapped (Dustin). Mike must be older since he’s taller and seems to have a functioning brain, while the two others are catapulted into the farther reaches of horror and disgust when Eleven attempts at disrobing in front of them. Those kids are not half as charming as the writers think they are. Anyway, girl frontal nudity is much much worse than gun violence or alien abduction, this is America, check.
Winona, still off her meds, has a love/hate relationship with her phone, with already two casualties on the AT&T side. Will is calling her from wherever he is (Spielberg’s Poltergeist), and he… breathes and she… recognises his breathing. One cop describes Joyce at being one inch from the edge but man, the woman is way past that point by now. She also drives a Ford Pinto (King’s Cujo), and the kiddies namedrop Michael Myers. Is it one or is it becoming a drinking game on 80s horror quotes?
The search party goes on and on until it finds Will’s bike. At school, Mike’s sister, adorable A-level Nancy, is having the hots for philandering Steve, who invites her to a house party while his parents are away. The party turns nightmare when Barbara, Nancy’s fat sidekick, is attacked ? snatched ? eaten whole ? by the entity after she bled in the pool. A Jaws poster has been shown just before, maybe it would have been more effective to show it afterwards, but irony is not Stranger Things’ strong suit. It feels, in fact, like Scream in earnest, not meta but retro.
The pool party and Barb’s disappearance are witnessed by Will’s elder brother, Jonathan, who for some reason becomes a paparazzo although three minutes before he was taking flash photographs of sticks and leaves in near darkness. No one else sees or hears a thing, since they are all frolicking upstairs. This is not gonna make Sheriff Hopper’s life easier in any way, considering the guy thinks he’s already cursed: nothing ever happens in nice quaint Hawkins and now all hell is breaking loose.
Flashbacks about Eleven kind of uselessly inform viewers that she’s the product of some alien experiment and doesn’t know about human feelings or technology (Spielberg’s E.T.). Lights are flicking (Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind). “Will is that you?”, Winona asks to a lightbulb way brighter than herself. The worse thing is that in spite of all those referential vignettes nothing much happens in this second episode. Will seem to be in a parallel dimension, hiding from the series’ monster. They call it a Demogorgon, one is tempted to rather call it a Demagog.