Everett Collection (2); Gabor Szitanyi; Suzanne Tenner; Disney; Francois Duhamel
Jeff Jensen
June 10, 2011 AT 04:30 PM EDT

Director J. J. Abrams has always been a pop culture polymath, and his new film Super 8 is a cinematic ode to an assortment of his influences (not least the early films of Super 8 producer Steven Spielberg.) If you wanted to see the mysterious chemical equation behind Super 8, read on… (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)

1. Stand By Me: A key influence on J.J. Abrams, Stand By Me is director Rob Reiner’s 1986 film about small town kids on a creepy adventure. It was a nostalgic ode to his sixties childhood via a creative communion with Stephen King, whose 1982 novella “The Body” provided the basis for the movie. Both films have an awesome barfing scene, too. Of course, Abrams was a child of the seventies, so…


2. Dazed and Confused: Add a big dash of director Richard Linklater’s 1993 nostalgic ode to Me Decade adolescence, which like Super-8 is filled with super sounds of the seventies and finds its scruffy-shaggy heroes heading into summer vacation.  Also: Stoner humor!


3. (Day for Night x Ed Wood):  Whereas the junior high kids in Stand By Me were fixated with TV and the high school kids of Dazed and Confused were focused on rock music, Super-8’s geeky boys are wannabe filmmakers in love with horror movies. Super-8 producer Steven Spielberg, who grew up making 8mm movies in Arizona, tells EW he had been toying with making a coming-of-age tale about movie making kids before Abrams pitched him on a similar idea, inspired by his childhood days making super-8 movies. Spielberg envisioned “a junior Day For Night” — a reference to director Francois Truffaut’s 1973 classic about moviemaking. Filter that idea through the mind of Abrams, and the result is more Ed Wood, Tim Burton’s 1994 loving portrait of the infamous B-movie maestro.


4. (Jaws x E.T.): Did we mention Super-8 is also a monster movie? It is! In the same way Roy Scheider played a cop trying to protect Amity Island from an awful, human-chomping creature in Spielberg’s 1975 summer-set summertime thriller, Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) plays a cop trying to save landlocked Lillian, Ohio from a possibly-awful human-snatching entity in Super-8. “Possibly awful” because it’s very possible that the entity in Super-8 is actually a horribly misunderstood alien trapped on our planet and desperate to get home.


5. Bambi: At heart, Super-8 is a very animated movie about a doe-eyed boy grieving the loss of his mother with a distant father who falls in love with a doe-eyed girl whose rural home nearly goes up in smoke due to men with guns.


6. Cloverfield: Another secrecy-shrouded 2008 creature feature produced by Abrams. The entire last act of Super-8 is basically Cloverfield in miniature — and better.


Super 8

Sound good? EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum sure thinks so! PopWatchers, did we miss anything?

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