Basically: The history of Hawkins is a whole new definition of “hellmouth.”
The first part of the fourth season of Stranger Things will premiere tomorrow on Netflix—or at 3AM ET for those who cannot wait to get this 80s horror-party mix started. This season is bigger—the episodes are longer (averaging 77 mins each), the locations are further apart, and the kids are older (so they can do and say more). It is also only part one. A second part is due out on July 1 with two final episodes that are each the length of a movie. See? Bigger.
Is it good?
Let’s start with the ingredients. Since its first season, Stranger Things mixed up a cocktail of the horror and kids’ films we love from the 1980s. We started off with ET, Goonies, and lots of John Carpenter and Stephen King, but we also got seasons inspired by War Games + Jurassic Park + X-Men comics . . . actually every season is inspired by the X-Men (and we’re good with that).
So what’s “in” this season?
The mixology continues with inspirations and sometimes references to Nightmare on Elm Street (the most prominent), Commando (I was surprised too), Friday the 13th (just a little), The Gate (probably), Pitch Black (I know it’s not the 80s but it’s the first thing I thought of), The Langoliers novel (yes, I know it came out in 1990), all of the fight pit movies from the 80s and all the Cold War ones too, AND finally—judging from the state of Steve’s chest—The Howling. You’ll get that joke when you watch episode 6.
I know what you’re thinking: But is it good?
I had fun watching it—mostly while strategically covering my eyes at just the right moments. The season starts with a flashback to the Hawkins National Laboratories on September 8, 1979, and it is brutal. BRUTAL.
After that shock, we switch to a coming-of-age comedy. Elle is doing what she can to adjust to high school—now that she, Will, Jonathan, and Joyce live in Cali (no actors’ names necessary, you know who they are).
Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are still the nerdy ones back in Hawkins but Lucas has joined the basketball team. (JOCK behavior imminent). Max, Steve, Nancy, and Robin are all making their lives work with varying degrees of success. Hopper is in a baaaad way in an equally bad place. And Murray is back. Yay!
So, in classic epic fantasy fashion, the party is separated—which we all know means the different groups will soon set off on separate missions, that will eventually bring them all together, utilizing their skills to hopefully save the world…again.
How about the monsters?
The big bad this season feels like an evil Swamp Thing with Freddy Krueger tendencies. That takes the creepy a long way. But there are other baddies, along with other creatures to help freak you out even more.
What did I think overall?
Even with the extra runtime, this season has a way of keeping you in front of your chosen streaming device. The cast, old and new, remain fantastic at connecting with us and making us care about how their individual narratives play out. Amazingly, they all have their own arcs—even when they intermingle—and that’s hard to pull off. The story works well too, if you know the era, you might figure out where things are going but getting there is so engaging you won’t mind. The comedy lands, the scares jump, and the relationships are a touchstone.
In the End: Stranger Things is a comedic-horror party mix that keeps delivering on everything you loved about the series from the start (you just have to know when to cover your eyes)!