what to watch now that your 'stranger things' binge is over
From the small town adventure stories of 'Escape to Witch Mountain' and 'Super 8' to the perilous power plays of 'Firestarter' and 'Midnight Special,' these seven titles will help you move on from your latest Netflix obsession.
Still from Firestarter, 1985
So you've binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix and are feeling kind of sad about it. Eight episodes and 440 minutes of scratching your head and wondering what the hell happened to Will Byers just weren't enough for you. Sure, you were satisfied with its conclusion and didn't feel strung along like you did with Lost. Yet, you were left wanting more. Perhaps there's another show or film as intriguing, wrapped up in a warm blanket of 80s nostalgia? Anyone with an internet connection will know that Stranger Things is littered with references to 80s movies. Walkie talkies! Chopper bikes! The thing is: you've seen those movies a million times — The Goonies, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind...
They're the obvious ones to revisit after the Netflix show, but they're not the only ones. Here are some others to binge on. Because there's nothing as depressing as that moment when you realize the next episode won't automatically play. THERE ARE NO MORE EPISODES.
Super 8 (2011)
Like the Duffer brothers' show, this one also apes films like E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and was made in the 21st century via a nostalgia-tinted lens. There's the goofy gang of friends who ride chopper bikes everywhere; the walkie talkies; the wardrobe — striped T-shirts, yellow macs; the supernatural goings-on in a small town; the secret government agency snapping at their heels; talk of a subterranean monster. The list goes on. Basically Super 8 is infused with that same rosy retrospection that permeates every frame of the Netflix series. This is surely the best thing to follow your Stranger Things binge with.
Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
Watching the scene above, it's hard not to think of the scene in Stranger Things where Elle uses her powers to make the school bully piss his pants. Mike was being picked on so Elle stepped up. Revenge was sweet. Likewise this kid here is standing up for himself the only way he knows how: by using his mind to slap a jerk around the face with a baseball mitt. But even the wider story is similar. The boy and his sister — both of whom are orphans with telekinetic powers — are chased by a scheming millionaire who wants to exploit their gift. From the cool 70s threads to the small town adventure story, Escape to Witch Mountain is one loud pre-echo of Stranger Things.
Elle probably wouldn't exist without Charlie, Drew Barrymore's character in the Stephen King-penned chiller Firestarter. Charlie has special powers. She can burn stuff with her mind — science calls it pyrokinesis. And get this: her dad can move stuff with his mind and he gets nosebleeds whenever he does so. Father and daughter are on the run from a secret government agency. Men in strange lab suits want to quarantine Charlie and study her; they want to control her and possibly destroy her. Like Elle, she's seen as a weapon. "When I do something bad will you still love me?" she asks her dad. You feel sorry for her because she can't help it. Another conflicted kid with perilous powers. And let's not forget the synth-drenched Tangerine Dream score. 80s gold.
Midnight Special (2016)
In Midnight Special a father and son are chased by the government and a strange cult. Why? The kid has special powers. Specifically he can shoot blinding beams of light from his eyes — he has to wear goggles like Cyclops — and he can crash satellites using his mind. As with Stranger Things, the government want to study the kid. Maybe he'd make a great weapon against those pesky Commies? He's quiet and socially awkward, again like Elle. Then there's the Spielberg-worthy special effects, and the torches piercing a dark forest at night, like in E.T. One look at the poster and you can tell you're in Stranger Things territory. A boy reading a comic book by flashlight, his eyes glowing electric blue.
A girl is trapped in a supernatural world. A hysterical mom never loses hope. Remind you of anyone? No, I'm not talking about Joyce Byers. This is one of the many 80s films — another Spielberg production — that Stranger Things doffs its hat to. One of its lines basically sums up the whole series: "That thing is in there with my baby!" Then there's the flickering lights and the trippy TV static. Is the girl inside the TV set? Is she communicating through the lights like Will Byers? Who knew suburbia could be so mysterious and dangerous? Turns out their house was built on a burial ground. Probably shouldn't have done that.
Jennifer Connelly plays a girl with a sleepwalking problem. Which is not ideal when there's a killer is on the loose at her remote boarding school. She also has telepathic abilities, and soon she's strapped into a strange head contraption like Elle from Stranger Things. "It's normal for insects, but am I normal?" 80s horror maestro Dario Argento serves up another synth-heavy spine-tingler with questionable acting but a creepy atmosphere that sets your pulse racing, like those moments in Stranger Things when a character steps into The Upside Down.
Eerie, Indiana (1992)
If you grew up in the 90s you probably remember Eerie, Indiana, that weird kids show starring the floppy-haired teen from Hocus Pocus. In it, Marshall 'Mars' Teller moves to the squeaky clean suburb of Eerie, "the center of weirdness for the entire planet." Basically, freaky shit happens in Eerie. Who could forget the episode where a woman vacuum-seals her twin sons in 'foreverware' each night so they don't age? Along with his sidekick/best mate Simon Holmes — the only one who believes him about the town — Mars rides his bike through the weirdness. Watching it now, you recognize how Lynchian it is: the darkness that lurks beyond the white picket fences of suburbia. "Sure my town looks normal enough, but look again."