‘Riverdale’: 3 Horror Movie References in Season 6’s ‘Ghost Stories’

It took six seasons, but Riverdale has finally gone full supernatural horror. The CW’s five-episode Riverdale event, “Rivervale,” takes viewers to an alternate universe where nothing is as it seems and nobody is safe. Only two episodes in, Rivervale has already seen Pagan rituals, ghostly hauntings, and a few shocking character deaths. Additionally, the event is rife with references to horror movies and shows, including The Twilight Zone and Midsommar. Horror fans who tuned in to Riverdale Season 6 Episode 2 might have recognized a few homages to classic ghost stories.

[Spoiler alert: The following story contains spoilers for Riverdale Season 6 Episode 2, “Chapter Ninety-Seven: Ghost Stories.”]

Erinn Westbrook as Tabitha Tate and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones in Riverdale Season 6 Episode 2, Ghost Stories.
Erinn Westbrook as Tabitha Tate and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones in ‘Riverdale’ Season 6 Episode 2, ‘Ghost Stories.’ | Kailey Schwerman/The CW

La Llorona is a real legend seen in horror movies

The most apparent horror reference in episode 2 is La Llorona, a spirit known for drowning children. In Riverdale, La Llorona emerges from Sweetwater River to kill the children of Rivervale. Through a séance, Toni (Vanessa Morgan), Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch), and Betty (Lili Reinhart) learn that La Llorona is the ghost of a maternity nurse. Years ago, Rivervale residents blamed the nurse for the high infant mortality rate, so they drowned her in the river. However, the townspeople wrongly accused her.

La Llorona is a real-life Latin American legend. According to one version of the folktale, the spirit of La Llorona belonged to a woman named Maria. She had two sons with her husband, but became jealous when he returned from constant traveling to only spend time with the kids.

Eventually, Maria’s husband left her for a new family. In a fit of rage, she drowned her sons in a river. Then, realizing what she had done, she took her own life. The legend states that ever since, La Llorona has roamed waterfront areas, weeping for her lost children.

La Llorona has become the subject of horror films, with the most recent being 2019’s The Curse of La Llorona.

Reggie’s car in ‘Riverdale’ Season 6 may be an homage to the 1983 horror movie ‘Christine’

As a way to cope with his father’s illness, Reggie (Charles Melton) buys a muscle car like he had in high school and begins to relive his glory days. He starts hooking up with his girlfriend, Veronica (Camila Mendes), in the car, and it soon turns into a fantasy for Reggie. He begins spending more time in the car, which he names “Bella,” than he does with Veronica, and she becomes jealous.

Eventually, Veronica discovers that “Bella” is a reference to a teacher, Isabella, with whom she believes Reggie had a relationship in high school. She destroys the car in an act of jealousy. However, Reggie denies anything more than a friendship with Isabella, explaining that the teacher supported him through his father’s abuse.

Bella appears to be a reference to Stephen King’s Christine, which received a John Carpenter film adaptation in 1983. The novel/film followed a teen named Arnie who bought a car, named Christine, with a personality of its own. Christine had a possessive nature that affected Arnie and became deadly for his friends.

Of course, Riverdale doesn’t take things quite as far. It also flips the scenario to make Veronica the jealous one, but the homage seems clear.

Jughead and Tabitha’s haunted apartment could reference ‘The Shining’

With Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) writing career, Riverdale couldn’t pass up an opportunity to reference The Shining. Season 6 episode 2 sees Jughead and Tabitha (Erinn Westbrook) discover a hidden room in their apartment, which Jughead decides to use as a writing nook. Then, he and Tabitha learn about a couple who lived there previously before committing a murder-suicide. Jughead feels inspired by the story and turns it into the subject of his new book.

The ghosts of the couple take over the apartment, possessing Jughead and turning Tabitha against him. She has a dream where she hits Jughead over the head with a hammer, and her dream nearly comes true later. However, they overcome the spirits.

Although a little less obvious, Jughead’s writing in a haunted room seems to reference Jack Torrance and his hotel in The Shining. Additionally, his bickering with Tabitha — and her near-incident with the hammer — seem to mirror Wendy Torrance’s attempts to take down Jack with a baseball bat when he goes on a homicidal rage.

Tune in to Riverdale Season 6’s “Rivervale” event on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.

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