The wait of nearly three years was worth it. Devotees of Stranger Things can rejoice because the fourth season will once again delight those who love 80s nostalgia, and also horror film buffs. If there’s one way the seven new episodes already out differ from previous seasons, it’s that they really dial up the violence and – in something that is fresh in this series – add in a good dose of gore. Until now, the series had been, above all, sci-fi with elements of terror. Now it is more terrifying and gruesome, with more blood and brutality. When someone is killed, you can’t help but wince – it’s as if your own bones are being snapped. The volume of blood shed has been multiplied sevenfold. And, in case that’s not enough, the most extreme scenes are repeated, to ensure you can’t forget them. Blood-splattered gowns, children lying dead on the floor, sunken eyes… And, in what seems a clear tribute to 80s horror classics like Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), there’s an entity called Vecna ​​who, if you close your eyes, could just creep in and cause your own worst nightmares.

Nevertheless, the new season of Stranger Things retains all those things that have kept viewers captivated since the start of the cult hit over six years ago: retro music, 80s clothing, and the same gang, only now they’re in high school and they go skating and drink milkshakes. Then there are songs that will cause goosebumps, like Kate Bush’s melancholic 1985 release ‘Running Up That Hill’, which plays at crucial times and, when combined with poignant shots from the past, ends up being a bit of a tearjerker. There are also oldies but goodies like ‘California Dreaming’ by The Mamas & the Papas, ‘Wipe Out’ by The Surfaris and ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ by Ella Fitzgerald. But make no mistake, Stranger Things is now a much scarier show. Its dark side is even darker, even if it manages to retain its characteristic humor and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) remains a scene stealer. The show’s big bad is simply far scarier. And you can’t help but feel it. This is a villain who looks terrifying and who is indeed terribly vicious to his victims, as viewers well know because they see him and his modus operandi again and again on screen.

In this new installment from brothers Matt and Ross Duffer on Netflix, something that also stands out is the rapid-fire cross-cutting, which makes for gripping viewing. One minute you’re in prison, where the miraculously still alive Jim Hopper is struggling to survive the freezing cold and daily floggings in a Soviet labor camp; and the next you’re in high school with Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friends, seeing at close hand the bullying she is subjected to – a topical issue that will crop up throughout the season; or with Dustin and his fellow nerds, getting to know a new character whose role will be central to the storyline. You’re in all these locations and also on the other side, in the Upside Down, wondering why that thing that looks like a decomposing corpse floating in the air kills several teenagers from Hawkins. You jump from one scene to another almost without realizing, as the storyline becomes more intriguing in each of these places and new clues lead like crumbs to a yet-to-be-revealed culmination.

‘Stranger Things 4’. Netflix.

The whole cast is once again superb, but this season, actor Joseph Quinn (Game of Thrones) deserves special mention in the role of Eddie Munson, a new geek who joins the gang. And there’s a stand-out performance by Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) who reprises her role as an aspiring journalist, but one who now becomes an intrepid heroine. Dustin is taller but just as funny and still has that special way of speaking. They’ve all grown so much since the outset of the series, when the youngest was 10 and the oldest 16. Now they’re teenagers in high school, but they haven’t lost what glued them together from the start – they are friends who put their friendship above all else. Withthe first seven episodes of season four already out, fans are keenly awaiting the last two episodes, due to drop on July 1, with the final one to be the longest episode in the history of American TV, at 150 minutes. It won’t be till then that we discover if there’s going to be a neat ending, and if the wicked Vecna will get his comeuppance, or if we’ll just have to wait until the fifth (and supposedly last) season of Stranger Things finally rolls around.

Bárbara Padilla
Bárbara Padilla. Collaborator in the Series section of La Vanguardia. News editor and presenter on RAC1. Barcelona-based journalist since 2007. An amateur movie buff since she was old enough to know right from wrong and of series since the Netflix boom.