Stranger Things: Horror Movie References You Might Have Missed

It’s been three weeks since the release of Stranger Things 4. The show really shook the world and was the most important season–I mean, it put Kate Bush back on the charts (where she rightfully belongs). While the press time has seemingly passed, I wanted to discuss the horror references in the show. I also wanted to do this without giving spoilers way too early in the cycle, so here it is now.

Stranger Things - What You Missed

This season was a tad bit scarier that the seasons in the past. With that came more horror movie references that made my heart giddy. It was fun to pick these out and cheer when an homage was made, so why not share my list with the world and see if there was any you might have missed. Without further ado, here are five references you might have missed in Stranger Things 4.

Vecna’s Attacks: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Stranger Things - Vecna

The first episode traverses through the torment that Chrissy goes through. It is a no brainer that the way Vecna attacks and manipulates his victims is an homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street. This trance that those who are cursed go under emulates a dreamlike state that can be fully controlled by the gruesome ruler of the Upside Down. Vecna poses as people to get under the victim’s skin. He traps them in a mental cage. He changes the scene at will. All of these are tactics that Freddy pulls from time to time.

Freddy's arms stretching out : r/NightmareOnElmStreet

Vecna’s appearance almost reflects Freddy Krueger. The disfiguration caused to Henry is very similar to the burn marks and scars seen on the slasher villain. Mixed in is the brutality of the kill–another thing they seem to have in common. A Nightmare on Elm Street is famous for its notoriously gruesome kills and the style in which Vecna kills his victims could fit right in.


Victor Creel: Speaking of Nightmare

Speaking of Freddy Krueger, the man behind the burns makes an appearance in the “Dear Billy” episode. Instead of being the perpetrator this time, he acts as father of the perpetrator in a twist. Robert Englund delivers in the haunting role, sporting grueling eye prosthetics. It’s his story that pushes the narrative further into the question of who is Vecna and what does he want.

Despite Victor being a victim rather than a villain, there’s no denying he’s connected to it all. Unfortunately, he’s even confused as to how and why he was targeted, and the events ruin his life forever–leading to him gouging his eyes out in grief. It’s a monologue that will stick with you and ultimately propels the story, therefore a great use and nod to Robert Englund and his character’s influence on the Stranger Things bad guy.


Steve Pulled Under: Jaws

There was a lot of surprises this season, and “Watergate” was one of them. The newly opened gate is discovered by Steve in his deep dive down Lovers’ Lake. Covered with suspicious tentacles, its presence is as ominous as it is threatening. As he swims up to inform the group, we are greeted with a reference from the first blockbuster ever.

What Happened To The Girl From Jaws' Iconic Opening Scene?

First, he is pulled down quickly. Next, he bobs up to react. Suddenly the underwater beast pulls him into the depths and through the mouth of the gate. Steve’s abduction is quite reminiscent of the first kill in the Spielberg classic Jaws. The first jerk down is always the most terrifying. Seeing the panic in Steve’s eyes and the transition of confusion to terror in the rest of the group is what sells the scene. It acts as the perfect reintroduction to traversing through the Upside Down.


A Rope Between Two Dimensions: Poltergeist

Stranger Things - A Reference to Poltergeist
I Rewatched Poltergeist for Its 40th Anniversary and I Have Questions |  Tor.com

Speaking of Spielberg classics, he acted as producer for the next film referenced. After their adventures through the Upside Down and their brawl with the Demobats, the gang make the connection between the deaths and the gates. They meet up with the others in Eddie’s trailer and cook up a method of escape.

This method of escape emulates a very iconic scene from Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. The rope that they throw up into the other dimension has the same kind of effect and look as the one used by the mother to save Carol Anne. Paired with the same emotional feeling of reuniting only for something terribly wrong to ruin it, it’s impossible to deny this is a Poltergeist reference.


Eddie and a Spider’s Form: It

Stranger Things - Eddie Munson

Finally, the number one comparison to Stranger Things is IT. Their similarity to each other is the reason for comparison, in which the series’ fourth installment further emphasized. The number one thing to bring up–even though it saddens me beyond belief–is the death of Eddie. It is general knowledge that IT packs an emotional punch with the death of their Eddie, and the Duffer Brothers decided to take that in the same direction. Eddie Munson died a hero and so did Eddie Kaspbrak.

We also got the tidbit of information that Vecna was behind the Mind Flayer. More importantly, he made it in the form of a spider due to his fascination with spiders. A spider form is kind of the butt of the joke in regard to the IT miniseries, as it is the “ultimate” form of the alien in the final battle. So, the comparisons to IT took on rather ironic levels in the season’s big plot twist.


Conclusion

This season was a wild ride and climbed the list to be my second favorite season of the show. I hope you enjoyed it as well and are hopefully exiting your mourning period for fictional characters. We have to wait two more years for the Stranger Things series finale, but in the meantime, let me know if there were any references that I might have missed or if there is anything you’re looking forward to next season. You can watch Stranger Things here on Netflix.

Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horrific tomorrow. See ya next time.

The Black Phone: A Thrill to Remember

I know that I’m about two weeks late. Elvis took priority in my weekly viewing first (truly fantastic movie, always been a Baz fan). However, I took the next opportunity to catch The Black Phone and boy what a treat it was. I really did enjoy this film, and it’s continued to get better the more I reflect on it.

This is the fourth horror project of Scott Derrickson that I’ve seen, and it takes second place to The Exorcism of Emily Rose. For those not familiar with Derrickson, he is responsible for the film Sinister which in has held the number one spot until 2021 for the scientifically scariest movie in a study conducted by Broadband Choices UK called the “Science of Scares.” It’s not my personal favorite, but I do tip my hat to a certain scene with a lawnmower, as it is one of the best horror scenes I’ve ever seen. Much like Sinister, The Black Phone has some flaws that pop out to me.

I will be discussing the highs and the lows of the film here, so if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it! I caught it on a value day, but I would pay full price to see it again–so go and watch it or scroll down and face the consequences of getting things mildly spoiled. Now let’s jump into this void of a detailed review.


Let’s get straight to it: Ethan Hawke

The Black Phone (2021) - IMDb

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but Ethan Hawke is amazing in this film. He is truly a terrifying villain which differs from the heartthrob, sensitive roles I’ve loved him in. He really took the plunge and played a complexly evil man chock full of dysfunction. While all the elements of his character weren’t fully explained in the film, he portrayed who he was in full confidence that even a viewer with zero context of the story can reach a mutual understanding of who he is and what his motivations might be.

Taking place in the late 70s, The Grabber’s targets emulate one similar to John Wayne Gacy–with details being eerily similar that doubles down on the creep factor for familiar viewers. The varied complex emotions that he swings to seamlessly is very similar to the skill portrayed by Toni Collette in the dinner scene from Hereditary. Accompanied with the variety of creepy masks that only adds on to the performance, this movie is worth seeing for just his performance alone.

Brilliant Kid actors: Another It Phenomenon

The Black Phone Movie Showtimes & Tickets | Charlotte, NC

However, it is not just Ethan Hawke that excels. The child actors that play the main characters in this film are beyond brilliant, especially the sister. Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw are what brings the film to life. They also add quite a lot of heart to the story. Starting out in their abusive household, your heart automatically hurts for these kids as the story goes on. It makes the abduction scene that more intense and heartbreaking, as you know their farewell to each other might be their last.

I give major props to McGraw here for her performance. She’s a convincing psychic and delivers some heartfelt, comedic lines through the film that breaks up the tension a bit. This does not discount Thames’ performance as well as the rest of the younger actors, who are at the center of this horror. The film starts out a bit slow. However this is only for us to get an insight and bond with these two children before they are thrust into the whirlpool that is this movie’s act II and III. We’re approaching a decade now of incredibly strong child actors in horror-based content such as Stranger Things and IT. Boy, do they add brilliance to their stories.

Peak Storytelling: Well Crafted

The scares from this film came from the realism. I meant it by drawing up comparisons to Gacy. Probably the scenes that delivered the most is the abduction scenes and the overall desensitization of the community as it occurs more and more often. The dream sequences and storytelling are top notch, making this seem much like a passion project of Derrickson’s. I also believe that it is aided that this is an adaptation of a novella, meaning there was structure to build off of.

The Black Phone Image Gallery - Preview Scott Derrickson's Horror Return

Not that the two are remotely comparable in regard to story content, but I feel that this tale was told better than Sinister. Derrickson played within his wheelhouse of gritty realism. For example, the scariest pieces of Sinister are the found ‘snuff’ films. This played it out through the film’s entirety. I see the progress only going up from here. If he has Hawke as his De Niro, the only direction is up for the duo.

Uneven Pacing and Plot Holes: The only Complaints

While I mostly want to sing its praises, The Black Phone is not flawless. Because it is an adaptation, the film relies too much on inference. There are a lot of unanswered questions and details that only the source material delves into and reveals. While this might cause the average viewer to pick up the book to find more, majority of film viewers will see these as merely plot holes. However, the questions don’t need to be answered to enjoy the movie and understand the main points.

The Black Phone: release date, cast, trailer and everything we know | What  to Watch

Another issue that can grind people’s gears is the pacing. The pacing is very similar to a typical somber psychological thriller. That being said there are quite a few moments where things seem to lull. However, I had no complaints as some of my favorite horror/thriller movies are slow burns. However, the way that this film was marketed was as a pure horror film. I can confidently say that it is not what it was marketed as. Reminiscent of films such as Zodiac or Se7en, it’s the burn of the chase.

Overall Review of The Black Phone

The Black Phone - PosterSpy

Rating: 8 out of 10.

I definitely recommend this movie and believe it’s more enjoyable once one knows what they’re getting into. It’s an intense thriller that doesn’t let go once it sets off. It’s a solid film from Scott Derrickson that showcases stellar performances. The key reason to watch this film is to get blown away by Ethan Hawke, Mason Thames and Madeline McGraw. They delivered through the whirling hour and 42 minutes. Finally, I think it’s a must see in theaters before it’s gone. If you’re seeing this too late, watch in a pitch-black room–should get the same creepy effects.

Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with us. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horrific tomorrow. See ya next time.