Stranger Things will come to an end with the show’s fifth season. Netflix isn’t done with the horror series, though. The Duffer Brothers already have an idea for a spinoff, and the streaming site wants to keep the franchise going. What we don’t know is what the show will be about, who will star on it, or when it will be set. The Duffers recent comments their spinoff will be “very, very different” isn’t much of a guide, either. In fact, that makes it even harder to guess what they might do for a followup.
We previously explored why a sequel set in the ’90s makes sense, and that’s still true. A direct sequel could have returning performers and connected plot lines with the original show. Or they could make the show an anthology series with all new characters in a new place fighting new monsters from a new dimension. But what if the next show is as unexpected as the Duffers teased? Then the possibilities are endless. Or at least they are so long as the two main components of their first series are still in place. Any spinoff must a) feature monsters and b) find inspiration from other stories. The current show would be fundamentally altered without Upside Down creatures and ’80s callbacks. So with that in mind we came up with five wild, “very, very different” ideas we’d love to see from the next Stranger Things.
A Victorian Era Gothic Horror
Hawkins, Indians in the 1980s is a far cry from Victorian England. But the two have far more in common than you’d think. That prim and proper period is also a bastion for classic horror stories. While Americans in the ’80s could watch A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing, Londoners at the end of the 19th century had decades worth of iconic nightmares like Dracula and Frankenstein to read.
From Wuthering Heights and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, to The Picture of Dorian Gray and Jane Eyre, that time period would have a rich tapestry of great stories to draw from. (Not to mention Jack the Ripper!) And the show wouldn’t be limited to using just horror tales. In the way that Stranger Things draws from Amblin films of the ’80s, a late Victorian Era show could turn to the works of Charles Dickens. Just imagine Oliver Twist and Pip from Great Expectations trying to overcome their cultural lot in life while also fighting for their lives against vampires and monsters. Yeah, we would definitely watch that show. Especially if it meant getting a Miss Havisham-inspired character, which would be so perfect we’re now mad it might never happen.
(Note: Mike Flanagan is essentially already doing the American equivalent of this idea for Netflix. His upcoming Fall of the House of Usher is based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. But that doesn’t mean a creepy American with a distinct mustache and love of all things macabre can’t arrive in Victorian England in a later season of our English spinoff idea. “The Tell Tale Visitor” would be a perfect season three premiere episode.)
A 1950s Alien Invasion
Demogorgons and the Mind Flayer are monsters from another world, but what if instead of a parallel dimension they came from a distant planet? Alien invasion stories have been a staple of horror since the release of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel The War of the Worlds. And the 1950s were a golden age of the genre, as Cold War paranoia (a staple of the Netflix show) led to a spate of stories about evil “others” trying to take over. The decade saw the release of memorable movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Blob. Those three alone, just a fraction of the decade’s best, would lend themselves perfectly to entire seasons of television.
Stranger Things 4 has already provided a connection to those stories, too. The Nina Project’s underground bunker is located in Area 51, the center of America’s long obsession with aliens and UFOs. Shady government officials, scientists without questionable moral boundaries, monsters from another world, and regular people trying to escape all of those hidden threats? Sounds like a Stranger Things spinoff to us.
A ’60s and ’70s-Style Supernatural Horror
The Upside Down is a place Hawkins denizens can go to, but it’s still supernatural in nature. That element is what makes the sinister realm truly terrifying. Demogorgons are mindless monsters whose flesh makes them vulnerable. But the Mind Flayer can take over someone’s body while Vecna can entrap people in a deadly nightmare. In that way the Upside Down’s most dangerous baddies are a lot like demons or ghosts, the same kind of villains who made films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby classics.
Forget the hellish aspects of the Upside Down, a series set in the ’60s and ’70s and inspired by those decades’ supernatural films could mine Hell itself for horror. Not only would that allow the Duffers to reference films like The Omen or The Wicker Man, it would allow them to draw on famous Stephen King stories like Carrie and The Shining. Stranger Things 4 is already using Satanic Panic to tell a compelling story. Just think what a spinoff could do with Satan himself.
A Meta ’90s Nightmare
The most influential horror movies of the ’90s were “very, very different” from their predecessors. They acknowledged both the films that came before and their own existence. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994 totally upended the franchise and the genre by going meta. Scream then took that idea and made something iconic by essential doing what the Duffers do but in a far more direct manner. The movie’s characters openly talked about horror movie tropes as they’re experiencing them. Then in 1999 The Blair Witch turned that concept around by making audience think the fictional work they were watching was real found footage.
If the Duffers want to do a fitting followup to their ’80s tribute they could make a ’90s horror-inspired show about a Stranger Things spinoff that ends up being haunted by the “real” Upside Down. Millie Bobby Brown could end up playing herself playing an older Eleven. How much fun would that be? We think Wes Craven would approve.
A Twisted Time Travel Tale
We’re not picking a specific era or even a speciifc place for our final idea. It’s not limited by either. In fact, this concept can incorporate the original series, everyone of our other spinoff ideas, and even those possibilities we rejected for various reasons. (A “Sea Monsters During the Golden Age of Piracy” spinoff was our #6.) For our fifth and final entry we’re using the entire history of time travel stories.
Time travel will let us maintain Stranger Things sci-fi and fantasy elements. Also, messing with the past can create alternate timelines. Ray Bradbury’s legendary “A Sound of Thunder” is a short story with enough juice to energize a long-running TV show. Those other realities would serve as parallel dimension equivalents of the Upside Down. And when you can also go to the future you can bring new threats backwards. Imagine advanced aliens from the year 42,000 laying claim to Earth millennia before? That’s just as much fun as the chaos a gigantic prehistoric monster let loose in the year 2000 or during the Revolutionary War would cause.
When you can travel through time anything is possible. And why limit yourself to one spinoff idea when you can do all of them? Especially when you can also reference any story you like?
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.