Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, chances are you’ve heard about this summer’s most hyped Netflix show, Stranger Things. Chances are just as likely you’ve finished it by now, as there are only eight episodes in the first season.
In the style of “wholesome-American-town-hides-a-deep-dark-secret” shows that have come before, Stranger Things introduces us to sweet Will Byers, then just as quickly whisks him away into a dangerous parallel universe. Will’s family and friends team up to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Helping them is a bad ass little girl with a mysterious past, who happens to be in possession of super-human powers. Creepy monsters, shadowy government agents, an extremely harried Winona Ryder, and a pervasive sense of otherworldly terror make Stranger Things a chilling watch.
To satiate you until season two (fingers crossed), we’ve compiled a list of shows in the Stranger Things vein. While the genre and subject matter vary from show to show, all deliver when it comes to the scares.
So: plug in the Christmas lights, blast The Clash, and settle in for your next bingeing session.
1. The X-Files
Stranger Things itself borrows heavily from this 1990s cult favorite. When rational Agent Scully is paired with “true believer” Agent Mulder, weird things, most of which involve aliens and monsters, start happening. If you enjoyed the pairing of Joyce and Hop, Mulder and Scully are right up your alley. Plus, the sinister creatures, psychotic killers, and dark mysteries featured in The X-Files will be sure to give you many a sleepless night.
2. American Horror Story
AHS teeters between the absurd and the downright disturbing. While all five seasons are worth watching, Season 2, Asylum, is perhaps the darkest, as well as the most similar to Stranger Things from a tonal perspective. Set in the 1960s, Asylum follows the inner-workings of one of the most harrowing insane asylums in recent television history. Twisted doctors performing gruesome procedures, murder, possession, and kidnapping abound. Do. Not. Watch. This. Alone.
3. Twin Peaks
Another 1990s cult classic from which Stranger Things draws inspiration, Twin Peaks begins the same way: a young person from a small town goes missing, her distraught mother calls everyone in town trying to figure out where she was last seen, and the rinky-dink sheriff’s department gets involved. David Lynch creates an unsettling atmosphere, that leaves you constantly on edge. In Twin Peaks, the evil lurking just beneath the mundanity of daily life takes a human form in Bob, one of the most terrifying villains in TV history.
4. The Fall
If you enjoyed the bad-ass law enforcement and creepy woods-searching of Stranger Things, The Fall might be the next show for you. Whereas the former is set in small town America, and only partially based in reality, the latter is firmly grounded in real-life Northern Ireland. Far from the monster of The Upside Down, The Fall’s monster is a serial killer, hiding in the guise of husband and family man, who brutally attacks and murders women. However, like Officer Hopper, The Fall’s Agent Gibson is a flawed and relatable anti-hero, whose devotion to the bone-chilling case becomes all-encompassing, especially for viewers.
Fringe takes the government conspiracy, child test subject, parallel universe, and superhuman ability elements of Stranger Things and pairs it with the FBI-sponsorship and episodic case-by-case storyline of The X-Files. Though it only ran for five seasons, Fringe has garnered something of a cult following since it went off the air in 2013.
6. Penny Dreadful
Another short-running show which is sure to gain cult status in the coming years, Penny Dreadful, set in Victorian England, features a rag-tag group of anti-heroes fighting against famous literary monsters from novels like and . Excellent performances from actors like Eva Green and Rory Kinnear make this show an effective (somewhat)-human drama, while the preponderance of monsters ensures that the scares are constant and intense.
7. Hemlock Grove
The executive producer of Hemlock Grove is Eli Roth, so you know it’s going to be scary. Set in the fictional eponymous Pennsylvania town, creepy things are afoot from the get-go. An imposing institute, rumored to be running sinister experiments on human test subjects, is only the start of the town’s dark history. Soon, Hemlock Grove is plagued by horrible murders, and rumors of Werewolf and other inhuman activity.
8. Wayward Pines
This Twin Peaks-y show features a small mountain town, where, of course, everything is not as it seems. Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents. After a car accident, Ethan realizes he is unable to leave the town, and unable to contact anyone in the outside world. Furthermore, townspeople are prevented from leaving by an electric fence, as well as the threat of public execution for anyone who tries to escape. Yikes.
9. The Prisoner
Yet another cult classic, The Prisoner is an oft-overlooked gem of the 1960s. After abruptly resigning from his secret agent post, an unnamed agent finds he’s been captured and imprisoned on an island called “The Village.” The Village is governed by a bizarre set of rules, and, of course, not trying to escape is rule number one. A psychedelic 60s atmosphere and a growing sense of paranoia make this show deeply unsettling and disturbing.
Feature still from "Stranger Things" via 21 Laps Entertainment