It’s no secret that the ’80s nostalgia mashup “Stranger Things” was a huge hit for Netflix. Ever since the Duffer Brothers’ magical, synth-scored first season ended, us fans have the itch for classic horror movies. Although pre-production has begun on the second season, at the very least, we’re looking at a late summer or early fall release.
Therefore, supplementation is needed in its absence as the spirit of the series is most grounded in the horror and science fiction of the ’80s. This list highlights the films that either influenced the series directly or evoke the same emotional core that made the show so compelling.
6.) “Firestarter” (1984) – Starring a young Drew Barrymore in her follow-up role to “E.T.,” this film is adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name. The supernatural abilities of a young girl whose remarkable ability to conjure up flames through her mind catches the interest of a secretive government agency known as “the Shop.” Without giving much away, you may notice some uncanny similarities between Drew Barrymore’s “Charlie” and the fan-favorite Eleven.
5.) “Night of The Creeps” (1986) – A group of college students must battle alien-slug creatures that transform their classmates and friends into flesh eating zombies. Essentially playing out like a John Hughes movie with zombies and aliens, this is quite possibly the most ’80s out of anything on this list.
From the hard-boiled, zombie-killing detective Cameron, played by the legendary Tom Atkins (“The Fog”) to the perfect sonic blend of New Wave and synth cues, “Creeps” is one of the best mixes of teen comedy and exploitation. Comparable to Sheriff Hopper from “Stranger Things,” Detective Cameron has a similar story arc, going from a complete unwillingness to believe the occurrences around him to going full vigilante by the film’s conclusion.
4.) “The Burning” (1982) – One of the most seminal slashers of the ’80s, “The Burning” sets itself apart from the horde of “Halloween” knockoffs that flooded the market within the zeitgeist of the slasher craze. Coming rather early in the craze, but still released a year after the original “Friday the 13th,” this summer camp slasher did something that no other film in its sub-genre accomplished: It developed a group of kids you cared about.
Instead of cliché archetypes that only exist to be creatively killed, you spend time with the kids of “The Burning” and come to know their idiosyncrasies, all of which make their eventual demises very effective. Featuring a young Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”), “The Burning” captures the youthful spirit of spending time with friends during the summer. This is one of the prime examples of what the slasher genre is meant to be, with relatable characters put in terrifying situations and being picked off one-by-one by a lone maniac.
3.) “Phantasm” (1979) – A mortician referred to as the “Tall Man” haunts a boy named Mike, who is in the care of his older brother Jodie after the deaths of their parents. What ensues is one of the most classic examples of low-budget horror filmmaking. And it comes complete with an array of exploitation fare including brain harvesting minions, a killer flying sphere and scenes that take place on an alien planet.
While this is an unconventional choice, what’s effective about this 1979 cult classic is the relationship between the two brothers. There are scenes were you can truly feel they have a close connection and genuinely care about one another, which is peculiar to see in such a subversive film.
2.) “The Thing” (1982) – John Carpenter’s remake of 1951’s “The Thing from Another World” speaks for itself. A group of researchers on the tip of Antarctica come in contact with an alien life form that can perfectly mimic the body of whatever it kills. Easily one of the greatest horror films and remakes ever made, this Carpenter classic is a master class in tension, paranoia and practical effects.
1.) “Monster Squad” (1985) – In what’s essentially a horror version of “The Goonies,” this film sees a band of horror obsessed friends battling the Universal Monsters they obsess over: Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The titular “Monster Squad” is not only trying to convince adults that monsters have come to life, but also plot to take over the world with a magical amulet. Even though the plot is somewhat lacking, it more than makes up for it with the chemistry of the actors. Much like “Goonies” and “Stranger Things,” the cast nails a sincere sense of friendship that rarely translates on celluloid, making this an underrated Halloween gem.
Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins