10 Classic Horror References in 'Stranger Things 2'

'Halloween' and a whole lot of Stephen King.


The Duffer Brothers promised a more horror-centric Season 2 for their hit series Stranger Things. Early on, they teased a darker, more edge-of-your-seat ride for fans. Stranger Things 2 delivers, ramping up the intensity and casting the heroes of Hawkins, Indiana, down the rabbit hole (or, uh, the Upside Down tunnel that haunts Will’s Dreams).

Alongside the potential jump scares and the ‘80s references are some often deep-cut homages to classic horror films.

This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things 2.

Stranger Things 2 kicked off its energetic marketing scheme with a series of posters made to look like classic cult horror posters. A lot of people assumed the posters were a reference to the season’s premiere date, which was the weekend before Halloween, the time of year when people typically watch the most horror films. But those posters turned out to be more of a hint of what to expect from the season itself.

Here are 10 classic horror movie references from Stranger Things 2.


10. Children of the Corn

Episode 1 of Stranger Things 2, “MADMAX,” plops Jim Hopper (David Harbour) right in the middle of a mysterious rotting field of pumpkins. On that same farm is a cornfield, the stalks dry and brown as winter starts to set in. As Hopper weaves his way through the rows and chases after a mysterious rustling noise (which turns out to be a crow), just try not to think of creepy little Isaac and “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.”

9. The Exorcist

When the Mind Flayer took over Will’s body, everything about that said “demon possession.” And there’s no possession movie more iconic than The Exorcist.

8. Poltergeist

The entirety of Stranger Things is very Poltergeist-ish to begin with (both Will Byers and Carol Anne are held hostage in weird demon dimensions), but there’s one scene in particular in Season 2 that really brings it home. While Eleven is pouting that Hopper isn’t home yet, she pulls the television into her room, resulting in the shot you see above: the kind of black and white static you can practically hear through the photo. Whether or not this was an intentional reference, it’s a good one.

7. Cujo

The Duffer Brothers are big Stephen King fans, and that really comes through in Season 2. When Steve “babysitter of the year” Harrington goes up against the Demodogs (including Dart) in a misty field in the dead of night, it’s really hard to not make Cujo references. A beloved pet turned homicidal demon dog? Definitely Cujo.

6. Firestarter

Most of Stranger Things 2’s pre-release posters were inspired by classic horror movies, and this poster Eleven, backlit and using her psychic powers is a direct reference to Firestarter (a movie also based on a King novel, by the way). The final battle scene of Season 2, when Eleven goes all-in on her psychic powers, is also reminiscent of the film, down to the warm color scheme.

5. Halloween

Mad Max goes full-on Michael Myers for Halloween, jumping out of the bushes in Episode 2, “Trick or Treat, Freak,” to scare Will, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. It works; she gets them good.

4. Friday the 13th

That same night, Will has a brief run-in with a trio of trick-or-treating teenagers, one of whom is dressed like Jason Vorhees of Friday the 13th. The scare from the Jason wannabe and his friends, the teenage werewolf and the Pennywise knockoff, lands Will in the Upside Down where he has his most terrifying vision yet.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Eleven’s relationship with the Upside Down and her ability to view and communicate with people through it is disturbingly reminiscent of Freddy Kreuger’s ability to fuck with people using the dreamscape. Just as Eleven pushes through the walls of the Upside Down to return to our world, Freddy pushes through walls for a much more terrifying reason.

2. Gremlins

Similarly to Cujo, the Gremlins start out cute and end up being tiny demon creatures with a disturbing bloodlust by the end of the film. D’Artagnan (aka Dart) seemed cute… then he slaughtered Mews and had to be trapped in the cellar. Demodogs are just glorified Gremlins.

1. It

Bob has clown nightmares, you guys. In fact, there’s an entire fan theory about how Bob is actually from Derry, Maine, the hometown of Pennywise. But, putting that aside, there’s still the classic imagery of a squad of ragtag kids riding around a small town on their bikes, defeating monsters only they seem to be able to deal with, and climbing around in tunnels under their town.

Everything is Stephen King, basically.

Stranger Things 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.

If you’ve ever wondered how many times Winona Ryder shouted “Will!” in Stranger Things, here’s your answer.

Related Tags