In just a few months, fans of the Netflix series Stranger Things will return to Hawkins, Indiana — and back to the Upside Down. Last summer’s hit horror series that served as a loving tribute to all things ‘80s will return for its second season on October 31.
Although Halloween is months from now, it’s not too early to begin preparing to meet the Demogorgon. Here’s how you can spend the rest of the summer getting back in the mood for Stranger Things, the right way.
Brush up on the classics.
Stranger Things is up to its neck in ‘80s nostalgia in its embrace of the horror movies and comic books of the decade. So before Season 2, take some time to check out all the works that show creators Matt and Ross Duffer have cited as major influences (or left in the show as Easter eggs).
Steven Spielberg movies like E.T. and Jaws are a given; one is a coming-of-age sci-fi, the other is a monster set in a sleepy town. But there’s also John Carpenter’s The Thing, which stars Kurt Russell in a fight against a parasitic alien in a remote research station. There’s a poster for The Thing in Mike’s basement, and one of his teachers watches it on TV at one point. As one of the definitive monster movies of the ‘80s, The Thing is a can’t-miss.
Other must-watch flicks include Sam Raimi’s comedy-horror indie sensation The Evil Dead (also seen as a poster in Stranger Things), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Winona Ryder’s Joyce is based off of Roy, played by Richard Dreyfuss), and even Red Dawn, which was released a year after Stranger Things takes place but is an exaggerated form of Cold War paranoia, which is subtle in the Duffers’ show.
Another must is Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic dystopian anime Akira. While Hawkins is an ocean and decades away from 2019 Neo-Tokyo, the social angst and the corruption of youth on the part of shady government programs (Eleven) makes Akira indelible to understanding Stranger Things.
And last but not least, Ghostbusters, man. Just look at their costumes.
Let’s not forget books, either.
Anything Stephen King is a no-brainer. I recommend Carrie, Christine, IT, The Long Walk (of which Stand By Me was based on), and Dream Catcher to get a sense of how King grasped modern day teenagers. There was also Firestarter, which the Duffers referred to for its title sequence.
The X-Men storyline, The Dark Phoenix Saga in which the telepathic mutant Jean Grey inherits cosmic powers and becomes the unstoppable Phoenix, is also a major influence on Stranger Things. X-Men comics were all the rage in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and there are clear fingerprints of Chris Claremont’s X-Men run throughout Stranger Things, with Eleven being a very obvious parallel to Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force.
And play Dungeons & Dragons!
Getting started with Dungeons & Dragons as a full-time hobby is worthy of its own guide, but if you’re curious how the game is really played, check out the dozens of podcasts and video streams of people playing whole campaigns together. Critical Role, which is hosted and played by cartoon and video game voice actors, is one of the most popular anywhere on the internet.
Stranger Things Season 2 will premiere on Netflix on Halloween, October 31.