Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 2 is so stuffed to the brim with nostalgia for 1980s pop culture that it is remarkable that Doc Brown hasn’t shown up yet to shout “Great Scott!” at Eleven (maybe next season). However, between all the grand allusions to E.T., Ghostbusters, Aliens, and even ‘70s cinema like Close Encounters and The Exorcist, Stranger Things 2 could incorporate its rose-tinted wistfulness a little more subtly—and in nods that are easy to miss. Such is the case with a tip of the hat to one of Winona Ryder’s 1990s classics, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
That film was a pivotal role in Ryder’s career, as something akin to her first “adult” star vehicle after often playing troubled teenagers and ingenious ingénues in her 1980s films, which all of Stranger Things feels more directly descended from (except, you know, without Heathers’ murder sprees). It also led to her becoming a costumed drama darling for the next decade with films like The Age of Innocence, Little Women, and The Crucible in her future. So it’s nice to see the next stage of her career—the comeback scream queen of Netflix—to tip its hat to that past one.
In Stranger Things 2, it occurs when Ryder shares a dance with lovable, doomed Bob (Sean Astin) on Halloween night. Bob is dressed like a traditional Oct. 31 Dracula, which is to say as a cheap imitation of the vampire icon as embodied by Bela Lugosi. However, this makes sense, as all Dracula movies imitated up to that point, in large or small ways, Lugosi’s 1931 classic film. So it is easy to miss the self-aware irony that Ms. Ryder also shared a dance with Gary Oldman’s more sadistic, yet romantic, Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s lurid camp vampire classic.
That 1992 film had a vampire who was far more chic, and gory, than what Bob evokes, yet both see a hesitant star waltz with a man destined for the grave before the film (or television season) is over. It’s a subtle joke worth sinking your teeth into.