The 80s were an absolutely rich decade for the horror genre. It was a time of slashers, mids, and prodigious scares. It was a time when John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Clive Barker were all becoming household names. However, no horror creator has had such an impact on the genre as a whole more than Stephen King.
stranger things proudly wears its 1980s influence on its sleeve and does nothing to hide it. Especially when it comes to Easter eggs and Stephen King parallels. From a young group of misfits confronting the forces of darkness to old houses hiding a deadly secret, the master of horror receives more than a few homages in the Netflix series.
The police (various)
From the show’s opening footage, one thing fans of King and the show will know is that the red makeup that glows angrily against the black screen looks vaguely familiar. If they know the images but don’t know where they came from, it’s probably because they come from not just one, but multiple sources.
The font is called “ITC Benguiat” and has graced the covers of many of Stephen King’s best works. Of Carrie at Cujothe big red letters have practically been the face of his novels for decades.
A group of children fight evil (It, Christine, The Body)
While Stephen King wasn’t the only creator to use a group of young people to fight the power of darkness, he was one of the most successful in defining the trope. Well-read members of the stranger things Audiences will easily notice the similarities between Hawkins’ children and groups like the Losers Club and other young heroes of King’s coming-of-age tales.
Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will of Hawkins are easy replacements for Bill, Ben, Stan, Mike, Eddie and Beverly of Derry, but older cast members such as Steve, Johnathan and Nancy could easily run into the same group of Philadelphia teenagers who encountered a possessed Plymouth Fury. Either way, the parallels are clear and present.
Monsters live under/in a small town (miscellaneous)
Again, King may not have invented this trope, but he definitely made it famous. The idea of horror coming to town is one that goes back as far as The Devil and Daniel Webster, but the way the show handles it is remarkably similar to King’s methods.
It might not be a clown, a demon, a vampire, or some strange combination of the three living in Hawkins, but the bizarre horrors of the Upside Down could easily clash with the supernatural entities encountered in a multitude of Stephen King stories. Similar to creatures like Atuin and the Twisting Terrors that lurk in the mist, there are monsters beyond human comprehension.
Only one useful member of law enforcement (necessary things)
Despite their training, equipment, and call to protect and serve, it seems that law enforcement members are often little more than useless in most horror stories. That being said, one thing that Stephen King and stranger things have in common is that at least one member of law enforcement is capable of screwing up their mettle to the bitter end.
Hopper is to Hawkins what Pangborn is to the town of Castle Rock. While one deals with missing children, Russian spies, and creatures from another dimension, the other is able to deal with murderers, curses, and even the devil himself. Either way, the supernatural is just another day in the office for these members of the force.
There’s a search along the train tracks in the woods (the body)
Although it’s more of a cinematic/movie choice, the image of kids looking for something along train tracks is entirely a reference to support me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there’s a lot more in common between the film and the story that inspired it and Netflix’s iconic series.
The first season has the kids looking for Will in the woods, the second has Dustin and Steve looking for Dart along the train tracks. Both sequences are reminiscent of the search for the corpse seen in the iconic film, only missing an encounter with an oncoming train and a slow-motion scream.
Someone Has Mutant Psychic Powers (Firestarter, Carrie, The Shining)
Eleven’s intro is where things start to really turn into Stephen King territory. King has been known to give children special abilities, whether psychic powers, pyrotechnic abilities, or “Shining”, and this is usually never fully explained. Up to a point, Eleven is almost the same.
Her powers are the result of selective breeding and government experimentation, but information regarding the process was only released to viewers until season four. With the reality of Vecna revealed, more will certainly be known about Eleven’s past and the work of Dr. Brenner.
Someone’s got a past with a creepy clown (it)
Perhaps the biggest nod to Stephen King’s work was the pep talk with Bob in season two. As Bob drives with Will in the passenger seat, he tells him the story of Mr. Baldo when he lived in Maine. Anyone familiar with the author’s work will instantly be able to relate Bob’s encounter with another infamous clown.
Although it is not said that Bob’s clown was indeed a variant of it, he goes on to say that the clown gave him a balloon and started appearing in his dreams. This can only be a reference to both the novel and Tim Curry’s iconic (and chilling) performance in This.
A monster feeds on someone’s energy (miscellaneous)
Whether it’s Pennywise, the Crimson King, Randal Flagg, or Leland Gaunt, there’s always some evil creature, demon, or entity feasting on the town’s souls or even just one person’s energy, and the show is certainly no different. Although the series takes the names of its creatures from the pages of a dungeon master’s guidebook, they could all arguably be linked to the same kind of terror seen in the pages of Stephen King’s work.
The Demogorgon, Mindflayer, and Vecna may look and behave differently than some of Stephen King’s monstrosities, but the author’s influence has a grip as tight as a blood-sucking tendril from the Upside Down. Cosmic horror is truly one of the author’s strengths, and the Duffer Brothers know it.
A store has something sinister behind (necessary things)
Easily the most subtle nod to King’s work, but by no means unrecognizable. Although the Starcourt Mall lacks magical trinkets or demonic shopkeepers, it hides a secret from the small town that would wipe them off the map. Russian spies and officers may not be as dangerous as Leland Gaunt, but they cause the same number of explosions.
Gaunt’s secret base and location of operations could be two different types of evil, but the results are equally destructive. The two simultaneously unite and tear apart a community, a theme King uses time and time again to tremendous effect.
A House Radiates Evil (It, Rose Red, Jerusalem’s Lot)
Stephen King has created some of the greatest haunted houses in all of horror literature. From the Neibolt Street house to Rose Red, similar themes, imagery and motifs are shared with the Creel house seen in season four of Strange things.
Its stereotypical imposing face is a clear reference to the house on Neibolt Street, and that stained glass rose on the door is clearly a reminder of the large windows seen in Red rose. When all is said and done, it blatantly speaks to the character of a home or structure.
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