Movies on My Mind
Week Ending July 2 2016
‘80s nostalgia, and especially for Spielberg’s Amblin, has had mixed results, from Abrams’ Super 8 to the recent Midnight Special, but this particular soup seems to possess all-important substance, with well-cast, rather than annoying, kids (more Stand by Me than The Goonies) and a scenario that seems to take in influences as eclectic as John Carpenter, Stephen King and Poltergeist (all evident from the trailer, and all referenced in an Irish Examiner interview with the writer-directors), as well as featuring Noonie herself, all strung out but as becoming as ever.
Most enticingly, though, this was originally titled Montauk (it’s now set in Indiana, for reasons as yet unknown, but it suggests conscious distancing from alleged events). The Duffer brothers, twins Matt and Ross, previously served up scripts for Wayward Pines (which I’ve been wayward about getting round to watching), so clearly like their small town mystery narratives, and Stranger Things is self-evidently based on that most fascinating and elusive of purported occult intrigues of the last century, one that rivals the (inter-connected) Philadelphia Experiment (not so much the Michael Paré movie, though) in terms of reality bending paradigm shifts, parallel time-lines, and time travel, with its tales of military mind-control experiments, test subject Montauk boys, and even the materialisation of a thought-form beast that wreaked destruction at the base. Preston Nichols and Peter Moon have written a whole series of – increasingly tenuously linked – books on the subject. And for tenuous connections, check out Andre Gregory’s account of a bizarre initiation ritual in the classic My Dinner with Andre (made long before the goings-on there had gained currency).
Stranger Things appears to have the sense not to hang around digressing; at eight episodes it has the potential of being punchy, and if the Duffers (and Shawn Levy, but hopefully that’s in no way indicative) include only a sliver of the subject matter, this promises to be a highly engrossing experience (notably, however, they make no mention whatsoever of the Montauk Project in that interview, so let’s hope it isn’t a missed opportunity to bring the material to a wider audience).