For all of Halloween-themed October, ComicsVerse is creating magic. By magic, we mean analyses of Halloween films, shows, music, and anything else we can find. If you want to keep posted on the newest and greatest content in this particular series, you can check it out here. Stay tuned for more ComicsVerse series coming your way, Spoopy Ghostoween and beyond! Now, let’s talk about STRANGER THINGS!


STRANGER THINGS is a series that revels in a love of great genre movies. Series creators The Duffer Brothers have crafted a loving homage to their favorite films that deliver horror and sci-fi goodness. It is only appropriate, then, that we make a cinematic mixtape to compliment STRANGER THINGS season 2.

Below are some old favorites and some deep-cut B-sides. Each is curated to fans of STRANGER THINGS and paired with an ’80s mixtape song. Pop the popcorn and make sure the doors are locked in case something is creeping up behind. These are the seven films to watch before STRANGER THINGS season 2!

1. NIGHT OF THE COMET 

Okay, this movie rules. Imagine 28 DAYS LATER or THE WALKING DEAD but with a pair of ’80s Mall Brat sisters. When Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney) realize that the eponymous night of the comet has either incinerated everyone they love or turned them into zombie monstrosities, they do what any teens would do: hit the mall!

The girls end up proving themselves more than equipped for the situation. Their Green Beret father made sure they’d be well trained for any apocalyptic scenario. “The MAC-10 sub-machine gun was practically designed for housewives,” Reggie comments. NIGHT OF THE COMET is a bunch of frivolous fun, but what sets it apart is the way Reggie and Sam are more complex than the Valley Girl stereotypes of ’80s cinema.  

’80s Mixtape Song: Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Duh.

2. THE MONSTER SQUAD

THE GOONIES? F*ck THE GOONIES. THE MONSTER SQUAD was out here doing the shared monster movie cinematic universe long before DRACULA UNTOLD and THE MUMMY up and peed their collective pants in front of the entire elementary school at the spelling bee.

People, this movie is so rad it opens with Van Helsing killing Dracula. But the beast from the European east (I’m not sure where Transylvania actually is. Don’t @ me.) swears to get his revenge. He returns to the most terrifying time, the ’80s, with a cadre of creeps including the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, the Gillman, and the Wolfman (who this film confirms does indeed have nards). To top it off, legendary make-up artist Rick Baker gives each monster a modern makeover.

The Duffer Brothers have been pretty open about their ’80s movie influences, but THE MONSTER SQUAD shares the most DNA with STRANGER THINGS. The Monster Squad of the title is a group of outcasts and geeks who are the only ones with enough knowledge of the weird to take down the paranormal threats invading their small town. It’s a movie that will put a smile on your face from minute one. Of all the films on this list, this one is my biggest recommendation for STRANGER THINGS fans.

’80s Mixtape Song: How could it be anything but Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”?

3. THE HOST

THE HOST is like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE if instead of getting Abigail Breslin to a beauty pageant they were trying to rescue her from a giant fish monster. Bong Joon-Ho’s THE HOST uses the trappings of a monster movie to tell a story about the unbreakable bonds of family.

When a big fish monster created by, surprise surprise, reckless chemical dumping kidnaps Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung), her father must rally his dysfunctional family to save her. Each of them has their own unique skill set, but each has their own crippling insecurities, as well. Bong’s ability to balance different tones reaches its zenith as the film whips from slapstick humor to melodrama often within the same scene.

’80s Mixtape Song: Starship’s “Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now”…it’ll make sense when you see the movie.

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4. ATTACK THE BLOCK

A more modern pick for this list, but few films have captured the adventurous spirit of kids vs. aliens films of the ’80s like Joe Cornish’s ATTACK THE BLOCK. Moses (future renegade stormtrooper John Boyega) and his gang (including future Firestorm Franz Drameh) open the film by mugging Samantha (future Doctor Jodie Whittaker — Jesus who isn’t in this movie?), immediately setting the audience back on its heels.

When set against an invading force of “alien wolf-gorilla motherf*ckers” they’re the best option we’ve got. The gang bands together to protect their block, because no one else will. Cornish’s film is a rollicking adventure, but also a study in empathy and forgiveness. The creature designs are so fun, and if you’re someone who yearns for the days of practical effects, ATTACK THE BLOCK is a blast.

’80s Mixtape Song: Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome” (which still counts even though it scrapes by being released as a single four days before the end of the ’80s).

5. HOUSE (HAUSU)

Now let’s get a little weird. Is STRANGER THINGS your jam because of the surreal imagery of the Upside Down, or Eleven’s mysterious sensory deprivation tank? Then take a walk on the really strange side with Nobuhiko Obayashi’s hallucinatory vision HOUSE.

When a group of Japanese schoolgirls (Gorgeous, Kung Fu, Prof, Melody, Mac, Sweet, and Fantasy; yes, those are really their names) travel to Gorgeous’ aunt’s house, they stumble onto a horrifying secret kept locked away for years. Obayashi wasn’t going for narrative cohesion because the film was based in part on the nightmares of his young daughter. You wanna get nuts? Get nuts with HOUSE.

’80s Mixtape Song: Only one song matches the madness of this film: “All Hell Breaks Loose” by Misfits

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6. HOUSEBOUND 

One of the biggest gripes about horror movies, especially haunted house films, is why don’t they just leave the house? HOUSEBOUND hears your complaints and builds a whole movie around it. Juvenile delinquent Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is under house arrest for her most recent act of larceny.

Kylie is stuck in her childhood home with a tracking anklet and her overbearing mother (Rima Te Wiata). Just as Kylie accepts her fate, a ghost shows up, and the only way out of the house includes a ticket back to jail. HOUSEBOUND is a great export from New Zealand that carries the country’s signature style of dry humor and inventive horror.

’80s Mixtape Song: “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell (No spoilers, but you’ll be very surprised by who is watching who)

7. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

A Swedish film as sweet as Swiss chocolate. Oskar is an achingly lonely kid living in the suburbs of Stockholm. Day in and day out he suffers the agonies of bullies at school and his parents’ toxic marriage. Then he meets Eli. If you’re a fan of the relationship between Eleven and Mike, this is the film for you.

A quiet meditation on the pains of growing up with a supernatural twist. The less known going into this film, the more fun you’ll have watching its unexpected story unfold.

’80s Mixtape Song: Look, this ended up being tougher than I thought…let’s say Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

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