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Stranger Things of the third kind

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2017-10-19


There haven’t been a lot of movies made that take place in Indiana. Off the top of my head I can only think of a few like Breaking Away, Hoosiers and A History of Violence. Maybe movies don’t take place in Indiana since right up the road is the mega-city of Chicago where lots of them do that draws interest away from the Hoosier state? So when the Netflix series Stranger Things debuted last year that takes place in the fictionalized town of Hawkins, Indiana I got excited since I couldn’t immediately think of another cool sci-fi thing like Stranger Things that was set here. Then I remembered one of the greatest sci-fi movies in history was also set partially in Indiana that Stranger Things bears a striking resemblance to — Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was writer/director Steven Spielberg’s big follow-up to his smash movie Jaws. In this movie, several people including an Indiana artist (Melinda Dillon) and electric worker (Richard Dreyfus) experience alien encounters over the course of a night. In the electric worker’s case it’s spotting a UFO so bright it leaves him with a half-sunburn while with the artist her son abducted by aliens and is taken away. Afterwards, the two become obsessed with trying to come to terms with what’s happened to them while at the same time trying to put on paper an image that’s in both of their heads. When they finally realize this image is a calling from the aliens to meet at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming and the duo have to track across most of the US to get there while government officials, who also realize what’s about to happen, also gather there and try to stop anyone else from witnessing this event.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind was born in an age where aliens could still be looked upon with wonder and amazement, something that essentially died in the 1990s with series like The X-Files, of which the TV series Stranger Things has taken its cue from.

Much like with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Stranger Things also deals with a missing boy abducted not by aliens, but by a creature living in an alternate dimension known in the show as “the upside down” that’s much like our own only black and full of filth. And instead of the characters being able to witness these creatures with amazement like they do in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in Stranger Things they’re met with horror since these things literally want to consume us. And while you get the feeling that the government officials of Close Encounters of the Third Kind are lying to the people to keep them away from Devil’s Tower, it’s because they’re trying to protect us and keep the population from panicking. But the government officials in Stranger Things have no regard for the regular people. They’re ready to sacrifice us at a moment’s notice if it means forwarding their agenda, learning more about the upside down or keeping what’s happening hidden.

While different then each other, I think that Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the best sci-fi movies of all time while Stranger Things was one of the best series on TV last season. Even if they’re essentially two sides of the same coin. On the one side is Close Encounters of the Third Kind that comes from a 1960s “flower power” idealism where positivity and wonderment would win the day. On the other is Stranger Things that has its roots in a 1990s flavored mix of government conspiracy and general fear of the things that go bump in the night where you must fear the unknown and fight for your life.
And now comes a second season of Stranger Things just in time for Halloween with all episodes set to debut on Netflix October 27. Mums been the word on the actual plot of the second season, other than it looks to be a continuation of the first with the same characters but with larger monsters from the upside down. Much larger monsters — ones the size of cities.

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