The terrifying alternate reality of the Upside Down collides with sleepy Hawkins, Indiana in the acclaimed TV show Stranger Things. Complete with ‘80s synths and plenty of supernatural goings, the much-loved series blends horror and science fiction with plenty of nods to the classic films of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. Throw in a charismatic young cast and some heart-wrenching human drama and you have a modern classic that has captured the hearts of old and young alike.
The show has been a critical and commercial success, pulling in legions of devoted fans and influencing a swathe of retro horror and sci-fi titles that make you nostalgic for those long hot summer holidays. And as we eagerly await the show’s highly anticipated new season here are six must see TV and film titles to watch before returning to Hawkins.
The OA (2016-present)
If you’re looking for a binge-worthy blend of the supernatural, sci-fi and fantasy then your best bet is The OA, a show that debuted the same year as Stranger Things. The story focuses on a blind young woman called Prairie (played by Brit Marling) who turns up after being missing for seven years. On her return she calls herself ‘The OA’, she is now not blind and her back is covered in scars. The show blends mystery with the supernatural and science fiction leading to plenty of comparisons with Stranger Things on release. Indeed, in episode four of the first season, one character can be seen watching Stranger Things TV. Only eight episodes were released in the first season, but fans can rest assured that a return is coming with Marling reprising her role as Prairie. For a tense story packed with human drama and supernatural goings on, look no further than The OA.
If you have a fear of clowns, then IT is probably the reason why. Andy Muschietti’s horror blockbuster is an adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel, which was made into a two-part 1990 TV movie that likely freaked you out as a child. It tells the story of an evil supernatural clown that terrorises a small American town where children regularly go missing. Enter a group of headstrong young’uns who muscle up the courage to take him on. The new IT broke box office records becoming the highest-grossing horror film of all time, with a whopping $700m dollars worldwide. Horror hounds will get a hit of nostalgia, and new fans will be drawn to the excellent young cast, including Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame. Everyone who watches it will be impressed with some very scary scenes and imagery. And it has a definite Stranger Things feel too. So whether you’re after a dose of nostalgia or you just can’t get enough of scary clowns, IT is the film for you.
Dark debuted on 1st December 2017, and it was Netflix’s first foray into German-language original programming. The compelling show centres on the disappearance of children in a small German town told across three different years; 1953, 1986 and 2019. And naturally, these three time periods are linked together via a time travel portal! Much like The OA, the show has drawn comparisons with Stranger Things for its focus on child stars and sci-fi elements. But Dark (as the name suggests) is a much darker piece of storytelling that echoes the weird world of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks just as much as that of Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Although the story is complex (with the three time periods) Dark spins an engrossing yarn that will have you bingeing on it’s episodes late into the night.
Super Dark Times (2017)
Time to get even darker. Super Dark Times tells the story of a group of teenagers who’s lives are turned upside down after the accidental and traumatic death of a friend. Super Dark Times keeps its foot firmly in the real world (no time travel or alternative realities here) but it’s got tonnes of nods to the 80s classics we all loved as kids and plenty of hilarious dialogue to make you a nostalgic for the heady days of your youth. The young cast are exceptional, both during the comedic first act and believable as the film hits its terrifying dramatic conclusion. Super Dark Times is the directorial debut of Kevin Phillips and it has received widespread acclaim following a mega run on the film festival circuit. It’s now made its way to Netflix, so it can sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Stranger Things. For a gripping, tense and sometimes disturbing coming-of-age tale, fire-up your TV, search for Super Dark Times and hit play. You won’t be disappointed.
Summer of ’84 (2018)
Have you ever wondered what Stranger Things would be like crossed with a slasher film? Well then, Summer of ’84 is the flick for you. The film is about a group of kids of who come to believe that a serial killer is living across the road from them. But as we follow their attempt to track him down, what starts off a fun teen adventure swiftly takes a darker turn. The film premiered at Sundance in 2018 and is from RKSS, a three-person directing team from Canada who also made the awesome Turbo Kid back in 2015. In a scene that mirrors Karate Kid (a film released in the summer of 1984), the track ‘Cruel Summer’ by Bananarama plays while the kids ride their BMXs. Summer of ‘84 is chocked-full of 80s nostalgia and pumping synth tracks making it a perfect popcorn movie to watch in anticipation for the next series of Stranger Things.
What could be better to watch while waiting for your next trip to Hawkins than a new movie from the producers of Stranger Things? Kin tells the story of 14-year-old Eli (Myles Truitt) who lives in Detroit with his father Hal (Dennis Quaid). On the eve of his estranged brother Jimmy’s (Jack Reynor) return from prison, Eli breaks into an abandoned building site and stumbles upon the aftermath of an intense and strange shoot out. Shortly afterwards he finds a mysterious otherworldly weapon hidden amongst the rubble. Avoiding some intense drama brought on by his older brother the family hit the road but soon find that the (very cool) weapon brings an even more dangerous set of pursuers – and they may not be of this world. Kin is executive produced by Black Panther’s Michael B Jordan and is scored by the brilliant British experimental band Mogwai. If you’re looking for fun, fresh and star-studded 80s style sci-fi adventure, Kin is the film for you.
Kin is available now on Digital with DVD & Blu-ray 26th December