It’s hard to believe it’s only been a mere four days since Stranger Things 2 was unleashed on the world and our Netflix accounts. If you’ve yet to watch every episode, you’re in for some seriously spooky treats as the creators really turned the horror up to 11 in this sophomore offering. We were struck by how many recognizable horror references they snuck into this Halloweeny season of the beloved show. So like any good friend would do, we’ve collected all the scary movie tropes that Stranger Things 2 referenced right here, just for you!
*Spoiler Alert* This list has A LOT of spoilers for Stranger Things 2
Will’s connection to the Upside Down took a decidedly darker turn after last season’s finale where he puked up a very Cronenbergian looking slug. The body horror nods continued into Stranger Things 2, with much of Will’s journey and symbiotic relationship with the Shadow Monster becoming ever more reminiscent of the creepy subgenre. Will was possessed through the mouth and nose by the shadowy being, like some kind of uber facehugger from Ridley Scott’s Alien. And, of course, Eleven had an iconic escape from the Upside Down through the gooey womb-like membrane which separates the two dimensions. Both of these just screamed body horror to us.
Stylistically, Stranger Things has always leaned into the ’80s element, but this season introduced us to an entirely new group of teen tearaways living in Chicago. Kali and her crew were based on a staple of ’80s late night horror: Crust Punks. Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark and Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys center on an outcast group of punky looking teens/burgeoning adults who live on the outskirts of society, just like Kali and her ragtag group of avengers.
Stranger Things 2 introduced two new badasses to its core cast this season with new party member Max and her intrinsically bad boy brother. Billy’s complexities and anger were revealed to come from a place of abuse, but his bad boy looks and attitude were also inspired by another of our ’80s faves, The Lost Boys. Billy literally looked like he walked off the set of the cult vampire classic, and his teen tearaway ‘tude is one that was instantly familiar to cult horror fans.
Moving away from the period setting for a moment, Stranger Things 2 seemed to pay homage to a more modern phenomenon in horror: Home Invasion. Though there were ’80s movies that played with the idea, the creative team clearly took visual hints from more contemporary classics like The Purge, The Strangers, and You’re Next with Kali and her crew each wearing creepy masks as they hunted down the workers of the Hawkins Facility in their homes.
Though the first season of Stranger Things was arguably a giant homage to monster movies–with its big bad being the Demogorgon–the Duffer Brothers really ramped those references up in Stranger Things 2. We spotted multiple Jurassic Park nods, like Bob’s dynamic race through the hospital guided only by earpiece and Hopper’s reflective room filled with raptor-esque Demodogs. The underground tunnels also seemed pretty familiar to anyone who’s seen Tremors, whilst much of Dustin’s time with Dart was a loving homage to ’80s classic, Gremlins.
Throughout its existence, Stranger Things has been a living breathing reference machine and its pounding electronic soundtrack has always been one of the most exciting and authentically ’80s parts about it. This season was no different with its musical influences owing heavily to the master of both horror and experimental electronic music, John Carpenter. It’s honestly one of the show’s biggest joys and immediately throws you right back to Carpenter’s classic catalogue like The Thing, Halloween, and The Fog.
One of the best pop culture powers of all-time without a doubt is telekinesis. Millie Bobby Brown has been channeling young Jean Grey since the first season, but Stranger Things 2 took her powers to a whole other level. Her blossoming and sometimes uncontrollable mental abilities are an ’80s staple. Whether it’s Stephen King’s classic Carrie creating chaos at the prom, Drew Barrymore as a pyrokinetic pre-teen in Firestarter, the mind blowing mental battle at the core of Scanners, or even teen telekinetic Tina Shepard defeating Jason in Friday the 13th Part VII, Eleven is a living homage to strong women in horror who can f*ck you up with their minds.
The Cabin in the Woods
Hopper’s seemingly safe cabin in the woods where he had El holed up for an entire year ended up becoming a perfect example of creepy cabins when Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy took Will there to exorcise his demons. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead was the obvious influence there, but the haunted paranoia of Hopper in early episodes also reminded us of Stephen King’s Misery, while the cabin itself of course brought up some serious Jason Voorhees flashbacks.
A really freaky theme running through this season’s Stranger Things was captivity. Whether it was the throttling presence of the Shadow Monster, El’s hideout in the woods, or Will being tied down to the bed and burnt alive, there were a lot of creepy kidnapping vibes. That actually makes a lot of sense considering some of the most seminal scary movies of all-time revolve around the idea of getting trapped. The backwoods setting along with the lack of freedom was invoking some serious classic horror like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.
Did you spot any horror tropes we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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