Every season of “Stranger Things” brings new threats, and “Stranger Things 4” has teased the greatest yet. More intriguingly, it’s promising a darker season that further embraces the horror. The ’80s set series has worn its influences on its sleeves since the beginning, including horror, which makes that promise of a more horror-entrenched season even more exciting.
This week’s streaming picks are dedicated to titles that’ll get you prepped for “Stranger Things 4.” These six movies either directly inspired season four or complemented its darker tone and themes. As always, here’s where you can stream them this week.
Carrie – Prime Video
Poor Carrie White. Having a broken woman turned fanatical religious zealot for a mother resulted in a profoundly sheltered upbringing that couldn’t prepare this teen for the cruelty of high school. Bullied at home and school, Carrie’s burgeoning telekinetic powers finally gave her the strength to find her voice. That was before she was pushed too far. Carrie White transitioned from an empathetic teen to the monster in her own story with the wrathful annihilation of those attending her high school prom. Eleven spent all of her power in the Battle of Starcourt last season, which spells good news for her new high school bullies at the beginning of the new season. Because Carrie showcases that hell hath no fury like a telekinetic teenager scorned.
Shakma – Shudder, Tubi
Professor Sorenson (Roddy McDowall) organizes a live-action role-playing game on campus for his medical students. They gather, unaware that a test baboon, Shakma, has gone berserk thanks to an experimental drug that induces hyper aggression. It’s on the rampage, prompting a perilous fight for survival. While the Hellfire Dungeons & Dragons Club for Hawkins High School won’t have to contend with raging animals, they will have to deal with intense scenarios caused by Satanic Panic and the Upside Down.
We Summon the Darkness – Netflix
“Stranger Things 4” will see a Hawkins stricken with Satanic Panic, a mania that also fuels this irreverent, 80s-set horror comedy. It sees a trio of friends invite a trio of guys they met at a heavy metal concert to their country home for an after-party. With the area plagued by Satanically inspired murders, the after-party turns into a fight for survival. We Summon the Darkness doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does offer a highly entertaining horror-comedy in large part due to Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson having a ball with their characters. Heavy metal is both the target and lure for Satanic Panic here.
IT (2017) – HBO Max
Like Pinhead, Pennywise also inspired this season’s supernatural threat. It’s also easy to draw parallels to the ’80s setting and a group of social misfits banding together to stop the evil. IT takes place in 1989, introducing the Losers Club and their harrowing battle against Pennywise over summer break. A charming coming-of-age story with some effective scares. Bonus: Finn Wolfhard stars as Richie Tozier, perhaps due to his performance as Mike Wheeler?
Hellbound: Hellraiser II – AMC+, Prime Video, Roku, Shudder, Tubi
Creators Matt and Ross Duffer cited Pinhead as an influence for their threat this season on “Stranger Things,” and that’s evident in Vecna’s unique sophistication compared to other Upside Down villains. In Hellbound, the nightmare isn’t over for poor Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Lawrence), who has been institutionalized after the first film’s events. It’s a lucky coincidence for Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), who has long been searching for the Lament Configuration. He uses the information Kirsty has unwittingly given him to revive Julia Cotton (Clare Higgins) in the same gruesome fashion we saw Frank Cotton resurrected in Hellraiser.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors – HBO Max
A Nightmare on Elm Street has been cited and confirmed to be a significant influence this season of “Stranger Things,” particularly its central boogeyman Freddy Krueger. The third entry in the beloved horror franchise sees Freddy targeting the teens at a mental institution, though he wasn’t quite prepared for them to harness power from their dreams and fight back. The savvy teens risking their lives to defeat a much more powerful threat could apply to Dream Warriors or “Stranger Things”; there’s so much overlap that makes this one perfect to revisit.