In eight, 80s-tinged episodes, Netflix’s Stranger Things tells the story of a group of friends who use their Dungeons and Dragons know-how to find their missing friend in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. It’s difficult to watch the compelling sci-fi thriller and not see its influences. Some are more overt – Mike Wheeler’s The Thing poster – while others are a little less obvious, like alien-like Eleven knocking back Eggos like Steven Spielberg’s E.T. does Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And unless you’re a Guillermo del Toro-phile, you could have missed how creators/twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer paid tribute to the Master of Horror.
If the humanoid Demogorgon – the monster who has upended their town and is named after D&D’s demon prince – and its slightly Venus Flytrap aesthetic reminded you of something that could only have come out of del Toro’s head, you’re actually not that far off. “One of the things we were really excited about is that we wanted to build the monster and we did,” Matt told Empire Online. “There was a company called Spectral Motion that did a lot of stuff for Guillermo del Toro. The monsters and creatures were always scarier when they felt very real and tangible, and there’s something about CG that lessens the impact of it. Often it’s scarier when stuff is weird and when you don’t fully understand the motive.”
The Duffer bros also take literal inspiration from Pan’s Labyrinth and use a tree as a portal to the Upside Down, similar to how Ofelia goes into the toad’s grotto. With so much 80s horror packed into eight hours and reverent references to GdT’s work, it’s no wonder the director quickly released a glowing review of the show via Twitter.