The trailer for season 2 of Stranger Things is an ode to all things nostalgia. The first season of the Netflix hit delved deep into science fiction lore, consistently drawing on elements from the classics (including some not-so-subtle allusions to ET which escaped no one). If the new trailer is any indication, the show’s affinity for the vintage sci-fi style pioneered by the likes of Steven King and Steven Spielberg has only grown. Through quintessential 80’s imagery and music, the trailer effortlessly establishes Stranger Things as a period piece.
The trailer begins with a lone violin holding a quivering high note as the three boys roll up to the arcade on bicycles. An ominous orchestral swell becomes a crescendo and then cuts abruptly to nothing. The soundscape quickly goes to work to remind the audience we are indeed in the 80’s with the familiar sweeping chimes and sound design of the 1983 arcade classic Dragon’s Lair. As a rousing game ends at 0:22, dread fills the room, signaled by a cut to black and a deep growling bass synth beneath a reverb laden whisper of a disembodied guttural voice. Will appears to have been temporarily transported to another dimension, known as the Upside Down. The acousmetre disappears when Mike runs outside to meet Will, sensing that something is wrong. It appears the Upside Down is permeating into their world.
A familiar progression starts at 0:51, first on strings, and then joined by a rapid synth playing even 16th notes. At 1:21, the unforgettable voice of Vincent Price says, “Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand, creatures crawling search of blood, to terrorize y’awl’s neighbourhood.” Out of context, the voiceover is difficult to place, only becoming more obvious at 1:35 when Michael Jackson sings “I’m gonna thrill you tonight.” Jackson’s voice brings everything the audience has heard until this point into focus; Jackson’s revered 1982 hit “Thriller” provides the material for both the familiar progression, as well as Price’s monologue.
By the time the title card announcing the Halloween premiere appears at 1:52, Thriller is in full swing. From here, the trailer rides the momentum of the pop song until the trailer seemingly ends with the final note of the song at 2:25. Cut to black, Mike’s voice echoes “If you’re out there just, please, give me a sign.” This cues a last minute twist, revealing that Eleven survived the end of season 1 and is trapped in the Upside Down. A pulsing bass synth underlines a messy orchestral crescendo as strings slide higher and higher, intensifying as Eleven finds a way to escape the Upside Down through an ooze reminiscent of the Alien sega. The trailer ends with the Stranger Things title card at 2:43 and the show’s theme music underpinning Price’s maniacal laugh.
Watching and listening to the trailer for Stranger Things season 2, you can’t help but feel transported to the 80’s. After all, where else do you find a band of misfit kids dressed in full Ghostbusters attire fighting monsters straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons game on Halloween to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Thriller?
– Andrew Sproule