Guy Adams’ Notes from the Upside Down: An Unofficial Guide to Stranger Things arrives today from Touchstone; and to celebrate, we have a guest post from the author about the current nostalgia for Eighties horror. He ties that in with the overwhelming success of “Stranger Things” and how the show manages to hit every Eighties nerve with a focus on the horror of the time.
The Irresistible Nostalgia of 80’s Horror
Age gets us all in the end. Things wither, not only physically but conceptually too. This is why your old, terry-towelling, fluorescent socks have not only rotted into brightly glowing fragments. but the idea of them – the sheer enthusiasm for them – has also crystallised into a sensible mental soup of shame and regret. Good taste will always be the enemy of blind nostalgia.
But the Eighties though. Oh god. The Eighties. The decade that brought us many terrors: Reagan, Thatcher, the threat of nuclear extinction and, of course, the album Never Let Me Down from David Bowie, a god projectile-vomiting radioactive effluvium into our ears.
But the cinema… the horror!
For me Eighties cinema was the birth of horror. It’s all the babysitter’s fault.
Ten years old, and I’m sat down in front of Tom Holland’s wonderful Fright Night. A vampire has moved into suburbia, and it’s up to teenage snoop Charlie Brewster and horror movie host Peter Vincent (the ever-sublime Roddy McDowall) to stop him. The wit of the movie was lost on me at the time; what stuck was the idea that – as per vampire lore – if you invited horror into your home, it could kill you. I didn’t sleep. It unnerved me that much.
By the morning, the fear had passed, but not the excitement. I invited horror into my home. It’s lived there ever since.
I started renting more movies. All the recent big hitters: Poltergeist, Halloween, An American Werewolf in London, the Nightmare on Elm Street pictures (the sixth, optimistically titled Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, was the first eighteen certificate movie I saw in a cinema; my girlfriend at the time, whose tolerance for pizza-faced teen-botherers was minimal, sat in the screen next door chuckling at Blame it on the Bellboy).
I bought old rental tapes, sold off cheaply to make space. Less obvious titles these: Gary Sherman’s Dead and Buried, Sidney J. Furie’s The Entity, Dan Attias’ Silver Bullet. A collection had begun.
And it didn’t stop, through my teens – where I began to stretch my boundaries, hunting down the more forbidden, eclectic cinema of Italy, Spain and Japan – and into my twenties, when the whole lot was replaced with shiny discs.
That collection now stands at several thousand movies. Perhaps addiction would have been a more accurate word.
Now, of course, the Eighties movies are all just added to the mix. I am a man of moods; sometimes I’m on a silent cinema kick, sometimes nothing satisfies like an Italian giallo, sometimes I continue my – frankly insane – mission to watch every single one of Jess Franco’s movies (I’m getting there, god help me). But amongst these passing obsessions aside, there will always be a huge place for the Eighties.
The sharply shot slasher (there’s an absurd comfort in watching teenagers being slashed beneath canvas); the neon-infused glow of John Carpenter; the slick, mucous worlds of David Cronenberg or Frank Henenlotter.
And I’m not alone; “Stranger Things” proved that. Horror thrives off the unkillable (say what you like about Jason Voorhees, he’s no quitter), and the Eighties have perhaps proven to be the most enduring decade of them all. “Stranger Things” takes all the gooey warmth of that decade – because so much of the horror in the Eighties was warm, for all its professed desire to chill: the close families, the rise of the schoolyard oppressed, the triumph of friendship – and stirs it into a stew that is as great as the sum of its parts.
Nostalgia? Perhaps. A little. Because, sometimes, there’s nothing better than remembering when you were a kid and the monsters weren’t real because you could kill them. But not blind nostalgia. No, because unlike those hateful socks, those ugly jeans, and that terrible, terrible Bowie album, Eighties cinema stands the test of time.
Age gets us all in the end? No, not all of us. Because Eighties cinema is immortal. “Stranger Things” proves it with a love letter in eight parts. A love letter that resonated so strongly, I wrote one of my own: Notes From the Upside Down: An Unofficial Guide to Stranger Things.
I tell you – as if you needed to know – why you should love the show and discuss it, and its many influences, until the reader and I are hopefully feeling like we’re back there again. Maybe a bit of that immortality will even rub off.
But probably not, because we can’t all have the staying power of Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. Once I was Corey Haim, the plucky kid, staring down his fear. Then I was Jason Patric, rebellious and looking for deeper, darker thrills. Now, frankly, I’m Dianne West, occasionally taking time out from the ironing to remind myself of the excitement of youth. Still, could be worse; one day I’ll be Barnard Hughes, and then you bastards better watch out.
Notes from the Upside Down: An Unofficial Guide to Stranger Things is out NOW! CLICK HERE to order a copy from Amazon.
The first season of “Stranger Things” was released in July 2016, and within a month it became the third most-watched season of Netflix original content of all time. This incredible show continues to dominate pop culture, and fans are not so patiently waiting for the next season to be released this October 27th. Guy Adams’ Notes from the Upside Down, a Touchstone original paperback, is here to help fill the Demogorgon-sized hole in our lives.
Jump inside the world of “Stranger Things” and discover everything you need to know about the hit TV show…
Grab your Eggo waffles and get ready for a visit to Hawkins, Indiana—just don’t forget the fairy lights! This fan-tastic guide has every fact you could ever wish for—from insights into the origins of the show, including the mysterious Montauk Project conspiracy theory, to a useful Eighties playlist (because, of course) and much more.
If you’ve ever wondered why Spielberg is such a huge influence, which Stephen King books you need to read (hint: pretty much all of them), or how State Trooper David O’Bannon earned his name, then this book is for you. Entertaining, informative, and perfect for fans of Eighties pop culture, Notes from the Upside Down is the Big Mac of unofficial guides to “Stranger Things”—super-sized and special sauce included.
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