Oxenfree, a recent adventure/horror game from Night School Studios, tells the story of a group of high-schoolers on a trip to a sleepy tourist destination for a bit of beachside partying. Soon enough, they come into contact with supernatural forces that haunt the island, and they’re forced to investigate the island’s troubling history while coping with the interpersonal drama that threatens to undermine their progress.
Soon after the game was released, it was announced that Robert Kirkman’s studio (creator of The Walking Dead) would be helping to expand Oxenfree into a full-blown franchise, potentially including comics, movies and a television series. Since so much of the game’s young-adult tone comes from the world of movies and television to begin with, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at some of Oxenfree’s more cinematic cousins—not only as a way to provide recommendations for other entertainment to fans of the game, but also to get an idea of what those spin-offs might look like.
This cult hit of a comedy series from the late ‘90s mind of Judd Apatow follows Lindsay Weir, a brainy-but-burned-out high schooler struggling to reconcile the academic expectations of her parents with her desire to just kick back and listen to the The Who.
The show is anchored by a performance from Linda Cardellini (of Mad Men and Avengers: Age of Ultron), with louder and broader performances from her friends, played by James Franco, Seth Rogen, Busy Philipps and Jason Segel. While Freaks and Geeks doesn’t involve any collisions with the supernatural, it’s not hard to see similarities between it and Oxenfree. Both sizzle with dialogue that’s heightened and quippy without going too far into self-conscious affectation, depicting an idealized version of what it feels like to be a high schooler.
Already straddling the line between games and movies by way of its Disasterpeace score (who you might know from his work on Fez), It Follows shares much of its DNA with Oxenfree. Though it falls more on the side of horror on the YA/horror spectrum, its nostalgic-yet-timeless world closely mirrors the one built by Night School Studio.
Both contain groups of well-meaning kids working together to get to the bottom of some seriously creepy shit, relying on a quiet tension throughout to make sure you never get too comfortable in your seat.
You know how Oxenfree gives you just the slightest peek into a supernatural world, focusing instead on how the characters are dealing with the effects of their adventures rather than the granular details of how or why the spookiness is happening in the first place?
Turns out Cloverfield managed to nail that formula in movie form back in 2008. While its shaky camera was a bit polarizing when it first came out, this found footage thriller uses that limited perspective to provide only intermittent glimpses of the creatures terrorizing New York City. The ambiguity surrounding the movie’s main foes makes them all the scarier.
In the first half hour of Oxenfree, you learn that Alex’s older brother died just a few years prior, and it’s clear that such a loss turned her world upside-down. Much of the game is dedicated to examining how this trauma affected her and the dynamics of her friendships. In a way, the supernatural events that take place act as a catalyst, heightening the emotions of her and her friends, causing them to say things to each other that otherwise might have been left simmering under the surface.
Similarly, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows a high schooler named Charlie, whose issues with depression have cast a long shadow over his entire childhood. As the story unfolds and Charlie grows closer to his new friends—Sam and Patrick—more and more details start to slowly trickle out about the nature of Charlie’s troubling upbringing that led him to be the way he is.
Apparently, J.J. Abrams has a knack for movies that center around a group of charismatic youngsters fighting for survival in extraordinary circumstances, because this is the second of his projects on this list. However, Unlike Cloverfield, Super 8 nails a crucial part of what makes Oxenfree so great: a sense of humor. Whether it’s a poorly timed pot brownie or a series of groan-worthy puns, Oxenfree never lets you forget that Alex and her friends are just a bunch of kids who want to get back home to their lives, go to prom with their friends, and work on their college applications.
In Super 8, a ragtag group of goofballs constantly take jabs at each other despite dealing with a rash of disappearances and odd occurrences in their small town. Their sarcastic comments serve as a sort of catharsis for the stressful circumstances in which they find themselves, but it never becomes too overbearing or grating. Whatever form a potential Oxenfree spin-off might take, Super 8 is a great film to look to for inspiration.
Tim Mulkerin is a freelance writer from Tucson, AZ who just really wants to be a hype-man for Neil deGrasse Tyson in his inevitable rap-battle with B.o.B. You should say hi to him on Twitter.