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These Steven Spielberg Films Heavily Influenced Sweet Tooth

If we asked you to name a blockbuster movie that came out between 1975 and the mid-'90s, there's a good chance it would have been either directed or influenced by Steven Spielberg.

In this era, Spielberg directed a long list of now-classic action and sci-fi movies, including "Jaws," the "Indiana Jones" trilogy, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "The Goonies," and "Jurassic Park." The man brought sharks, archaeology, aliens, and dinosaurs into the mainstream, for goodness' sake.

In addition to inspiring a new generation of archaeologists, marine biologists, and treasure hunters, Spielberg has become a reference point for filmmakers. J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves both worked for Spielberg and have credited him as an influence on their own movies.

After giving the world "Ready Player One" in 2018, Spielberg has switched back to drama mode: The first look at Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story" remake promises it's going to be something different for the director and his fans. Meanwhile, Netflix series "Sweet Tooth" is paying homage to some of Spielberg's most beloved earlier movies, via a young boy with antlers.

Kids take charge in Sweet Tooth and E.T.

Many now-adults probably remember meeting Spielberg's E.T. for the first time as kids. The friendly, glowy-fingered alien typically instills either pure fascination or abject terror that leaves a lasting impression.

Spielberg had depicted alien interactions before, but "E.T." was the first time he explored what has become a major theme in his movies: kids saving the world because adults are too incompetent or corrupt to trust with such a task. In "E.T.," it's Elliott's (Henry Thomas) connection to the alien that ultimately saves him and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and his friends who help Elliott get E.T. to the spaceship.

"Sweet Tooth" also shows kids displaying courage and wisdom beyond their years, of a sort many adults in the series lack. The Animal Army is made up of teens who have made it their mission to protect animal and human hybrids, while a lot of adults are out trying to hunt them down. And Gus' (Christian Convery) unerring optimism drives him and Jepperd (Nonso Anozie) on in their quest to find Gus' mother, even when the older and more jaded Jepperd is wary.

There's a reason kids love Spielberg movies as much as adults do: For the first time, they get to see themselves as the heroes. "Sweet Tooth" gives them the same opportunity, antlers not required.

Sweet Tooth is set in familiar territory

A classic Spielberg move is to hold off from showing the audience the main attraction until the last possible moment. That might be a giant shark, an alien, a different alien, or a T-Rex. Instead, he relies on changes in the environment to provoke that quickened pulse and tingling sensation that something isn't right. The rippling cup of water on the dashboard in "Jurassic Park," for example, has become Hollywood shorthand for impending danger. The rustling leaves of the jungle often pre-empt a dinosaur attack.

Speaking of "Jurassic Park," if the forest scenery in "Sweet Tooth" looks familiar, it might be because the 1993 movie served as inspiration to the series' director of photography Dave Garbett and director Jim Mickle. There are the huge, dense trees and the sweeping plains, and akin to "Jurassic Park," two of the people navigating these landscapes are a wildly enthusiastic kid and a non-related adult who isn't exactly big on kids. 

Elsewhere, at the Animal Army's compound — an abandoned theme park, no less — we see a giant, fake T-Rex head that could have come straight from the "Jurassic Park" set. Meanwhile, the zoo features statues of safari animals lit through a giant glass window, which feels like a nod to the visitor center. "Jurassic Park" appreciation always finds a way.

Danger on a train seems familiar

Trains have been serving as the settings for cinematic thrills since the invention of the motion picture. One story goes that when an audience in Paris in 1896 watched the short film "L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat" ("Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat"), they were so scared they tried to run away.

That's not actually true (sorry), but train-pitched chases and battles are still a cinematic mainstay. One of the most famous examples is the opening of Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," which sees a teenage Jones (played by River Phoenix) fight and escape a gang of artifact thieves on top of and inside a circus train, complete with a lion, snakes, and a convenient magic box.

The train sequence in "Sweet Tooth" is an homage to the "Indiana Jones" scene. Although our heroes are trapped in a car with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, which are preferable to enormous predators.