Stranger Things Season 4 Part 1: More Horror and Characters… But Better? | TV series reviews, TV shows

Last day of school before spring break. Eleven tries to start a new life in California with Joyce, Will and Jonathan. Max, after the death of Billy and the breakup of his parents, closes in on himself and hates the whole world. Lucas plays basketball and gets into the “cool guys” party. Mike and Dustin join the D&D Club and find their place in the violent ecosystem of Hawkins High School. Nancy works for the school newspaper. Steve and Robin work at a video store. And Hopper is trying to survive in a Soviet prison and return to the States.

And suddenly cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham mysteriously dies in Hawkins. She is found with broken bones and gouged out eyes. The head of the local D&D club, Eddie “Freak” Munson, who is widely considered a Satanist and a psychopath, is accused of the crime. An ensemble of central characters wants to help a new friend and gets involved in a murder investigation in which a supernatural force is clearly involved. And this again leads the heroes to the secrets of the Upside Down and a meeting with a powerful new villain named Vecna.

Stranger Things

Genre: horror
Showrunners: The Duffer Brothers
CastCast: Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Winona Ryder, David Harbor, Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin
Premiere: May 27, Netflix
Duration: 7 episodes of 80 minutes
Similar to: “It” (2017), “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Carrie”

The Duffer brothers weren’t lying when they said that the new season of Stranger Things would be darker, scarier and longer than any of the previous ones. Now the episodes run for almost an hour and a half, and the strange things that happen in them make it possible to finally fully attribute the series to the horror genre. A viscous, even cut with a knife, atmosphere, an abundance of screamers, terrible practical effects instead of computer graphics – individual episodes of the fourth season make you dug your fingers into the pillow and sincerely worry about the characters. However, all this does not turn Stranger Things into some other series. Before us is still an adventurous mysticism with charming teenagers in the lead roles.

One of the most charming newcomers was Eddie “Freak” Munson. A line dedicated to Satanic Panic, a real phenomenon from the USA in the 1980s, is also connected with him.

However, the atmosphere of the show has changed. With the viewing of the first episode of the fourth season, the realization instantly comes – “the kids from Hawkins” are no longer children, but adult boys and girls, whose age cannot be hidden even under ridiculous baggy clothes and makeup. In the story, the characters move to high school and immediately face a set of problems that are mandatory for any high school student. Lucas is trying to finally become popular and pays more and more attention to what his peers think of him. Eleven becomes an outcast and is daily harassed by the local “queen of the class”, which is why he begins to lie to his loved ones. And Max does not get out of the office of the school psychologist and increasingly repels former friends with sarcasm and a gloomy mine. What mysticism? What is the backside? There are enough worries at school!

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If the third season was filmed as a tribute to the Red Menace films, then the fourth one begins as one big reference to high school comedies of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Schoolchildren in such films are most often stupid and angry poseurs, for whom parties and the approval of friends are much more important than the problems of the real world. The picture in the school scenes is deliberately bright and cheerful, the actors noticeably overact, and even the smallest squabbles are presented as tragedies of a universal scale. And it’s great! Yes, certain scenes from the first episodes turned out to be clichéd and caricatured, but that’s the beauty of it. Still, Stranger Things is more of a pop culture slice of an era than a story about real people with real experiences.

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Of course, the most popular guys in school are athletes. True, in Hawkins they prefer not American football, but basketball.

However, when the plot begins to dominate the elements of the detective story and when the pieces of the puzzle gradually converge, the fourth season returns to the formula of those Stranger Things that we are used to. Several parallel storylines, many mysteries, a mysterious entity on the other side, and a gradual build-up of tension until the final episode – that is, everything that we loved in past seasons, but on a much larger scale. If you need to describe the new series in one word, it will be the word “more”. More characters, more action, more music, more escalation and outright tin. And this “more” can be both a fat plus and an impressive minus that spoils the viewing experience.

This is especially true for the number of actors and the events taking place with them. For the first and second seasons, we already got a rather big ensemble of characters, and in the third, Robin and Erica were added to them – two charismatic young ladies who also need to be paid attention. It would seem that this is the ideal formula. Let’s focus the story on existing characters and reveal them from unexpected sides – it’s useful for the story, and the fans are happy.

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Instead, the Duffers added a sidekick character to almost every main character. Next to Nancy in the first episodes, the classic nerd Fred rubs. Jonathan has a new best friend, weed lover Argyle; Eleven bonds with lab orderly Peter. Hopper is trying to survive with the prison warden Dimitri (played by Tom Vlachikha – Jaken Hghar from Game of Thrones). And Mike and Dustin find a new idol in the person of Eddie – because of which the plot begins to twist.

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At the start of the season, there’s a great scene that juxtaposes the emotions of playing D&D with those of a basketball game. You have never seen such cool throws of 20-hedrons!

By themselves, the newcomers turned out to be interesting and memorable, they help move the story and add bright comical moments. The problem is that because of such a heap of characters, the central characters – those that we have been following since the first season – have partially faded into the background and finally become faceless shadows.

Poor Will Byers suffered the most from this, who in past seasons was not allowed to open up normally and participate in general events. Here, he simply follows the main characters and sighs languidly, suffering from unrequited love (attentive viewers could have guessed about it from the initial episodes of the first season). Mike also became a background character, and along with him, Jonathan and Erica – and Erica produces several powerful episodes in a season, but she has criminally little screen time.

Dustin and Steve take the rap for everyone, who since the second season have remained the ideal of on-screen chemistry and confidently take the title of “best duet”. This time, Nancy and Robin are trying to compete with them, from which they also make a hilarious and, moreover, effective team.

Separately, I want to say about Sadie Sink, who played Max. Duffers, as promised, expanded the role of her heroine and allowed the young actress to reveal herself to the fullest. The lion’s share of the plot is built on Max’s experiences in the fourth season, thanks to her, the characters for the first time fully face the new villain – and fight back. The traumatized, broken and self-contained girl appears just like that for the first time, and she really wants to empathize – largely due to the fact that Sadie Sink turned out to be a wonderful dramatic actress, capable of giving out a full range of emotions even in small episodes. Well, the scene with Max running, accompanied by the song Running Up That Hill, is now the most epic and memorable in the show.

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Max has a lot of strong scenes in the new season. But the episode with the speech at the grave of his brother is perhaps the most emotional

But Hopper’s line turned out to be interesting, but completely unimportant for global events. The former police chief almost learned to speak Russian (it is imperative to watch episodes with his participation in the original voice acting) and showed the commies how to fight creatures from another world, but did not come close to the story of Vecna ​​and other heroes. But it was in his branch that all the cranberries about the “evil Russians” were concentrated. As before, hilarious and so spread out that the showrunners can only be praised for the gift of mood. And, of course, there were episodes where a couple of Americans, barely speaking Russian with a terrible accent, easily deceive the guards of a top-secret Soviet prison.

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In the third season, there was a funny joke about Hopper being “fat Rambo”. So, in the fourth season, Rambo lost weight and saw as much tin as Stallone’s hero never dreamed of.

I would like to say a few words about the new villain. Vecna ​​(as is customary in the show, named after a character from D&D) is a sinister, cold-blooded, powerful and very similar to a revived mummy monster, every now and then throwing new challenges to the heroes. Unlike Demogorgon and the Mind Flayer, he does not leave the Upside Down and successfully terrifies remotely, penetrating directly into the minds of people with mental problems and forcing them to experience the worst nightmares over and over again. In this sense, the new antagonist is similar to Pennywise from It and Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (it is ironic that Robert Englund, known for his role as Freddy, plays one of the important roles in the series). Vecna’s victims are tormented by terrifying visions, unable to sleep at night, and eventually die a horrific death, reduced to a shapeless mass of flesh and broken bones. Horror, and only!

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The villain is introduced quickly, perhaps even chaotically, without really explaining what his motive is and how Vecna ​​is connected with the Upside Down and the Mind Flayer. But already by the seventh episode (final for the first part of the season), we are chewed in detail everything related to the backstory of Vecna, his abilities and possible motivation. As a result, we get the most humane and at the same time dangerous monster of those whom our heroes have encountered so far. Let’s hope he is not “merge” in the season finale and will be shown in all his sinister power.

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The design of Vecna ​​clearly traces the design features of a mummy or lich – after which this creature, in fact, was named

The first seven episodes of the fourth season of Stranger Things were unstable. The scale of events has grown, the stakes have risen. Added horror elements and epic scope. But at the same time, the show has become more difficult to watch: it has too many characters and storylines, which is why the former main characters are lost in the background. Nevertheless, the Duffers probably know what to do with their brainchild, and now they are only preparing us for a memorable ending that will finally reveal all the secrets and show a spectacular confrontation between people and creatures from the Upside Down.

We are looking forward to the final two episodes of the fourth season and the battle with Vecna. First, to see Hopper’s long-awaited reunion with the others. Secondly, to understand whether it was worth breaking the season into two parts at all.



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