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Donnie Darko's mom deep into reading Stephen King's "It," in the 2001 supernatural film from Richard Kelly.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In the original, theatrical run of Richard Kelly’s 2001 supernatural film Donnie Darko, the opening scenes feature the film’s title character, a troubled teen, riding his bicycle home while scenes are shown of his family members.

One of them, his mother Rose (Mary McDonnell), is shown reading a paperback of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel It, as young daughter Samantha (Daveigh Chase) bounces on a trampoline in the background.

This, as Echo & The Bunnymen’s beautifully dark song “The Killing Moon” plays. The show takes place over the course of October 1988. 

I rewatched this opening scene in Donnie Darko this morning, the same day that Netflix’s Stranger Things series is returning to TV for a second season, with its Eighties references and moody, "synthwave" style. This story suggests fans of Stranger Things will love King's It novel. 

And critics are telling fans that season 2 of Stranger Things is a bit more dark and horrific than the debut season was. This time the events take place in 1984 - the release of Ghostbusters was a key, pop-cultural event and is referenced in this new season, appropriately enough.

Who you gonna call? (Netflix)

Of course, Stranger Things is about middle school kids in a small Indiana town in the mid-1980’s, fighting a monster from a dark, unknown realm, just as the kids in It (which was made into a full-length, feature film and was met with critical acclaim last month) battling an evil clown in small-town Maine, which in the new It film is set in October 1988 as well. Red balloons, of course, seem to be everywhere.

And Pennywise the evil clown is one of the most popular costumes this Halloween. In fact, this morning, I saw a kid at a nearby school wearing said costume - this just before a strange electrical "event" took place in the school gymnasium, resulting in its evacuation. As David Lynch would say: "It's about electricity."

And for high-school aged Donnie Darko, he is part of a surreal, time-looping drama involving links to other worlds, prophecies and 80’s pop cultural touchstones, things that I can certainly appreciate.

As I’ve said previously here at Dust Devil Dreams, October 1988 was one of those stand-out months, in a year that was, in retrospect very important for me.

It was the month I went to St. Louis for a cousin’s wedding and ended up out in the country with a cousin of mine – last name: Shoemaker – spinning records (Swimming Pool Q’s, Swell Maps, weird jazz LPs, etc.) at hip public radio station KDHX. It was that experience that led me to go to college to learn radio broadcasting - until I realized I had no future in radio and switched to print (and later digital) journalism.

"This is the water and this is the well ..." (Showtime)

I mention that name, “Shoemaker,” because there was a story over at Atlas Obscura this week headlined “Eugene Shoemaker is still the only man buried on the Moon.”

Shoemaker was the planetary scientist (he was the “Shoemaker” of the Shoemaker-Levy Comet which crashed into Jupiter in 1994) whose cremated remains were sent to the Moon in a “polycarbonate capsule” which was wrapped in a piece of brass foil, laser-etched with his name and dates over an image of the Hale-Bopp Comet; an image of Arizona’s Meteor Crater, where Shoemaker had trained the Apollo astronauts; and a quote from Romeo and Juliet.

NASA’s Lunar Prospector orbiter, part of the Luna 1 mission, was deliberately crashed on the Moon on July 31, 1999, with Shoemaker’s remains aboard, making Shoemaker – who wanted to be an astronaut but could not due to health issues – the “first and only person to be buried off-world.” 

"Fate, up against your will ..." (Public Domain)

On the Moon.

A lot of Moon references this year, with eclipses and last year's "blood moons" and talk of returning to the Moon. And last night, watching the new season of Masterpiece's Poldark, one of the main character's a fortune-telling, nonagenarian named "Aunt Agatha," places a curse on the show's villain - and their child - for being born under the "black moon," a rare, total lunar eclipse. A bad omen, one suggesting death.

And with Stranger Things, the "upside down" has a new meaning in this Trumpsidedown society of ours, where evil and malice seems to be gaining ground. People are mysteriously disappearing and there is increasing amounts of fear and division sweeping the land, people plagued with nightmares and inexplicable events. Mass murder. Serial killers. Airborne toxic events. Conspiracies upon conspiracies.

Just as it was in days of old when eclipses took place and the future seemed decidedly uncertain. Are you paying attention to the cycles of the Moon? Are you paying attention at all?

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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