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Stranger Things season 4 still hits the horror sweet spot

As Stranger Things season 4 approaches, we praise the way the Netflix series still manages to maintain its effective horror elements

Stranger Things season 4: The Vecna in Stranger Things season 4

As the Stranger Things season 4 release date rapidly approaches, we have been lucky enough to catch the first part of the new season in advance, and we’re happy to report that this next chapter of the Netflix series still hits that horror sweet spot that it has become so renowned for.

Stranger Things is arguably the biggest, most popular, and most successful product Netflix has ever produced, so it’s rather fitting that this huge sci-fi series returns at a time when the streaming service is, it’s fair to say, facing one of its toughest periods. And, it’s such a relief to see that the beloved TV series hasn’t lost its magic.

Since Stranger Things first aired in 2016, what has become most emblematic of the show is the way it has managed to tap into popular culture with its horror movie homages and sci-fi movie references. Now, six years later, the Duffer Brothers and the rest of the Stranger Things crew have clearly not lost sight of their roots and their inspirations.

If you’re a fan of the show and you’re eagerly awaiting Stranger Things season 4, don’t worry, there’s not going to be any spoilers here. But, reader, you’re in for a treat if you’ve loved the horror and science fiction elements of the series to date.

In the past, we have seen deadly Demogorgons, the spooky world of the Upside Down, and dangerous scientific experiments. You might be wondering how, or even if, the Duffer Brothers would be able to match that energy going into a fourth season.

The end of Stranger Things season 3 and the Battle of Starcourt appeared to wrap up the story of the Demogorgons and the Mind Flayer pretty neatly, but of course, the door was left open just enough for the promise of more dark disturbances from the Upside Down going into season 4.

I’m probably not alone in the belief that seeing more Demogorgons now would become very old, very quickly, but thankfully our high school heroes have a new villain to contend with in season 4, in the form of Vecna. It takes a little while for this demon to be introduced, but once he arrives, he quickly establishes himself as a formidable foe.

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In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is the most terrifying and effective threat the kids from Hawkins have faced so far. Not only does Vecna look horrifying, with his inside-out skin, cold eyes, and imposing figure, but his brutal methods and heightened level of consciousness are truly haunting.

This ramping up in the horror stakes is certainly intentional, it seems. the Duffer Brothers have always been very careful and very enthusiastic with their inclusion of horror homages, and they have a very shrewd approach to creating a series which perfectly caters to its demographic.

As a show which is largely targeted at a younger audience, it’s important to land right in the sweet spot on the horror spectrum, and Stranger Things has always walked this line astutely. When discussing the forthcoming season, the Duffer Brothers promised to step up the scares, and they have duly delivered.

“We learn a lot about the Upside Down and what this evil force that’s been threatening Hawkins all these years really wants. It’s exciting for us, because a lot of the story is uncovered this season,” Ross Duffer explained. “Overall, I would say that the tone is certainly darker than it’s been. The goal was to make this the scariest season yet.”

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“We’re always trying something different each season to make sure the show is evolving. And that comes naturally in a lot of ways because our kids are growing up,” Matt Duffer added. “We thought that this was a good year to put them in what is basically a horror film.”

It’s a good point regarding the characters and their own journey and how this tracks not with the evolution of the audience and what we as viewers expect from the show. As the storyline develops, we naturally want new ways to be shocked and entertained, and similarly, as the protagonists we watch on screen mature, we place higher thresholds on what we can see them endure.

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The introduction of Vecna, and the casting of horror legend Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger in the classic ‘80s movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, show just how much trust the Stranger Things team have placed in their audience.

The Duffer Brothers have taken the risk of taking the show to new depths of darkness, but that risk has well and truly paid off. Even after six years and four seasons, Stranger Things still manages to maintain the magic of its previous instalments, and the horror is here to stay!