Stan Against Evil isn’t just a show that fits into horror; it’s a show that’s obsessed with and passionate about the genre. Dana Gould, the show’s creator, is one of the biggest horror fanatics that you’ll come across and that knowledge and love of the genre gets channeled into every single episode of the series.
Stan Against Evil’s unique point-of-view allows the series to tackle these classic horror tropes and still bring something new to the table. The show’s third season is set to debut on Halloween night and the new year has already hinted that it will pay homage to popular horror texts like The X-Files, Kolchak the Night Stalker, Godzilla, and even Twilight.
But, before the show’s new season unleashes all sorts of new horror Easter eggs on its audience, let’s take a look back at some of the best ones from the series’ first two seasons that you may have missed.
An American Werewolf in London
Computer graphics may slowly be taking over the horror genre, but there’s still a strong, passionate outcry for a use of practical effects to create scares. One of the experts in this area is iconic filmmaker John Landis, whose An American Werewolf in London still sets a high standard for what’s possible through practical transformation effects.
Stan Against Evil tells its own tale of lycanthropic proportions in “Curse of the Werepony” and makes sure to honor Landis in the process. The episode relishes the awkward transformation shots that feature a human-pony hybrid and it’s impossible to not think of Griffin Dunne’s painful metamorphosis in the process.
The Shining has turned into such a fundamental piece of pop culture—not just horror—that it’s practically impossible to not reference it in some way when telling a story about insanity. Stan Against Evil doesn’t hole up Stan in an abandoned hotel, but it does feature an eerie Svengali that grabs a mental hold of Evie.
“Girls’ Night” pits a powerful con-man warlock against Stan and he takes the form of a popular reality TV show host in order to hypnotize Evie. Evie’s manipulation is deeply reminiscent of how the various ghosts at the Overlook take control of Jack Torrance. She may not burst through a door with her kitchen knife, but she carries the same murderous glint in her eyes.
The X-Files’ “Monday” and Happy Death Day
Stan Against Evil’s season one finale, “Level Boss,” forces Evie to face a severe case of déjà vu when she gets caught in an unending time loop. Granted, Groundhog Day may not exactly qualify as a horror film (although such a fate would be rather terrifying), but the time loop concept has been creatively applied to the horror genre in some inspired ways, too.
One of the more popular deep cuts from this area is Vince Gilligan’s circular X-Files episode “Monday,” but last year also introduced the inventive time loop horror film, Happy Death Day to unsuspecting audiences. While overt references to “Monday” or Happy Death Day may not happen in the installment, the overlap in subject matter still points to a strong relationship between these works.
Mimic and Bug
These may be a few more obscure selections from the horror canon, but they’re still very much worth your time. Mimic marks early work from Guillermo del Toro and Bug is an overlooked gem from The Exorcist’s William Friedkin. Both films focus on the idea of evil insects (albeit in very different ways), but one of the most iconic visuals from these pictures is the disturbing set decoration that unleashes a giant bug’s cocoon on the characters.
Stan Against Evil’s “Spider Walk With Me” sees Evie have to negotiate her way through a complicated, consuming spider’s web that looks like it could be out of either of these horror movies. Every inch of décor is wrapped up in bug materials and it’s beautiful. The spider-man in the episode also doesn’t look that different from Mimic’s cockroach person. Now, can Stan Against Evil just find an excuse to get Bug actor Michael Shannon to guest star?
Witchboard and Ouija
Ouija boards are reasonably fair game when it comes to the horror genre. They’ve been a haunted focal point in films for decades and there are still plenty of modern horror films that dig into the area. The aptly titled episode, “Ouija Bored,” pits Stan and company against some witches and their meddlesome Ouija bored and supernatural mayhem ensues. Stan Against Evil may not follow Witchboard or Oujia beat-for-beat, but they still touch on the usual Ouija-related points, such as unrest spirits and a board with a mind of its game.
The Exorcist is just a much a staple of the horror genre as The Shining and, since Stan Against Evil will tackle as topics as unusual as wereponies and killer flowers, it seems only fitting that something as “normal” as demon possession would end up on their radar.
“I’m Gleaning My Coven” introduces some lackluster witches to Willard’s Mill, but the big set piece of the episode revolves around Denise’s possession. Regan’s possession in The Exorcist has been parodied so many times before that even people who have never seen the film can still probably recite the scene verbatim.
Stan Against Evil follows much of the scene’s blueprint, like Denise’s restraints and the gnarly look that she adopts, but the episode is more interested in re-inventing the trope rather than simply repeating it. Stan’s been covered in blood enough times at this point that he doesn’t need a coating of pea soup vomit.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Stan Against Evil hasn’t done a full-on Body Snatchers spoof yet (although there are so many remakes of the horror film that they really don’t need to…), but it at least touches on some of the film’s DNA in its first season episode, “Let Your Love Groan.” The installment sees Evie and Denise’s speed-dating beaus turn into deadly succubi who are more concerned with sapping their lifeforce than taking the night to the bedroom.
These succubi don’t completely take over Evie and Denise’s bodies, but their damage does leave them with a rather ugly veiny appearance (although Stan doesn’t notice). Whether it’s intentional or not, the intense vein look that hits Denise and Evie definitely feels like a shout-out to the infected appearance from the Body Snatchers films.
Okay, yes, we know. The Flash isn’t exactly horror, but the deadly villains from the series that are known as Time Wraiths are certainly the stuff of horror. Time Wraiths are essentially Grim Reapers for The Flash’s Speedforce. They’re demons that are actually fast enough to police other Speedsters.
Don’t expect to see superheroes in Stan Against Evil anytime soon, but the show’s second season premiere, “Black Hat Society,” introduces a Wraith as its main antagonist. Stan Against Evil’s Wraith seems to operate nearly identically to the ones in The Flash. It’s an eternally old flying beast that’s basically used as a security device to prevent Stan’s success.
The Wraith is one of the cooler monsters from the show’s bestiary and it surely isn’t a coincidence that the Wraith’s eyes are crucial ingredients towards Stan’s mission to travel through time. Stan even causes his own version of “Flashpoint” when he goes back in time to attempt to save his dead wife’s life.
Twin Peaks and The Dark Mirror
The “evil twin” field has a lot of potential in the horror genre because it stems from a very real place. Twins are real and there’s something deeply upsetting about the concept that one of these mirror images could have hidden dark desires.
Films like Dead Ringers and the underrated The Resurrected both deal with evil twins in disturbing ways, but Stan Against Evil‘s “Mirror, Mirror” explores a slightly different area. “Mirror, Mirror” isn’t an existing evil twin story, but rather it deals with the appearance of an evil doppleganger that comes out of nowhere to make life difficult for Stan.
Evil Stan feels like a carbon copy of the Black Lodge’s evil dopplegangers from Twin Peaks and speaks to the same themes from the series. Furthermore, the episode’s title feels like an intentional reference to the Olivia DeHavilland evil doppleganger picture, The Dark Mirror. Unfortunately, there aren’t any scenes of Evil Stan reciting his dialogue backwards.
The Omen, The Bad Seed, and Rosemary’s Baby
The Stan Against Evil episode “Hex Marks the Tot” pairs Denise and her bottomless empathy with a seemingly innocent babysitting gig for infant, Aiden Braden. It’s not long until Denise is informed that this baby is actually a demon that slurps out emotional support. Even though Denise is still head over heels with her new little friend, something needs to get done with this demon child and its magical rattle (don’t ask).
“Hex Marks the Tot” verges into fairly original territory, but it’d be impossible for this episode to take place without the other “evil baby” horror films that have helped pave the way, such as The Bad Seed, The Omen, and of course, Rosemary’s Baby. Would Polanski’s horror classic still be revered if Rosemary’s baby had a rhyming name?
It may be a rather fleeting reference, but Stan Against Evil wouldn’t be doing its due diligence as a horror series unless it touched on John Carpenter’s creepy classic, The Thing, in some capacity. Stan Against Evil always opts to go the practical route when it comes to its monsters and special effects, so in this sense it’s consistently playing homage to the creature feature. It feels like the transformative body horror madness from Carpenter’s film gets a particular nod when a distressed victim starts to sprout a second head from out of his chest in “Let Your Love Groan.” However, we’re still waiting for an adorable puppy to become man’s worst friend.
It might be a fun experiment to see Stan and the rest of Willard’s Mill adopt the old timey English vernacular that dominates a classical, gothic horror film like The Witch. Then again, Stan might grow frustrated with the whole thing rather quickly.
The Witch tells a boiled down story about the dark arts, blood sacrifices, and demon possession, but it also stars a rather wicked goat by the name of Black William. Stan Against Evil does their own riff on Black William in the episode, “Know, Know, Know Your Goat,” which sees Denise’s coat new pet goat turn into the sinister Baphomet.
Stan Against Evil’s demonic goat is obviously a lot sillier (and vocal) than the one in The Witch, but they still both play with the ritual of sacrificing a goat for a higher power.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, and Dark Shadows
The premise of Stan Against Evil sets up the hamlet of Willard’s Mill as a lightning rod for demonic material. The series has heavily looked into the town’s past and it’s pesky history with witches (and witch executions) that have made it the supernatural hotspot that it is today.
Willard’s Mill has its own original backstory, but the idea of placing the show’s town on haunted ground is hardly new. Actually, it’s an homage to a number of the pivotal supernatural series that helped pave the way for something like Stan Against Evil.
The lore of Willard’s Mill is meant to be a reference to the Hellmouth that Sunnydale’s based on in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the unusual town from Twin Peaks, or the macabre setting of Collinsport, Maine from Dark Shadows. These “cursed” locations are all to blame for the weird occurrences that happen in these series and Willard’s Mill is no different.
So this is more a thematic Easter egg than an actual reference, but since it’s come straight from series creator Dana Gould’s mouth, it feels like a safe inclusion…
The first season of Stan Against Evil involves Stan’s fight against the mythical Constable Eccles. The show’s second season evolves this mythology in several ways and puts the larger threat of warlock Gerard DuQuette on his plate. In order to take down this bigger danger, Stan needs to temporarily work alongside Constable Eccles. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is very much the mantra of Blade II and it looks like it’s no coincidence that Stan is faced with the same predicament here.
In fact, Gould says that all of this was an intentional nod to the Guillermo del Toro sequel, “It’s a situation where you join forces with an enemy because there’s another enemy in common between the two of you. They did this really well in Blade II. I want to go in that direction with it, but with our smaller budget it may be more like the school play version of Blade II.”
Additionally, with DuQuette’s powers still very much in the picture, it appears that season three will continue this trajectory where Stan needs the help of a bigger—albeit a potentially untrustworthy—fish.
Stan Against Evil hasn’t pit Stan against some double-mouthed extra-terrestrial yet, but they still do reference Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic in a rather unexpected way. The final act of “Hex Marks the Tot” relocates Stan and company to a disgusting nest fortress where much of Willard’s Mill are trapped in blanket cocoons (they’re not as cozy as they sound).
These slimy blanket cocoons look nearly identical to the cocoon pods on the Nostromo that the ship’s crew need to be rescued from. It’s a quick, fun nod to Alien, but it even has more impact because it doesn’t occur in an episode about aliens. Willard’s Mill is definitely a place where everyone can hear you scream…and whine.
Stan Against Evil’s third season premieres on Halloween night at 10pm (ET) on IFC with back-to-back episodes.