I don’t enjoy the masochistic watching of horror shows, but I always make an exception for Stranger Things. Or what we have so far, at least, since it is being released in two volumes. This sci-fi horror series follows residents experiencing supernatural encounters with an alternate reality in the fictional town Hawkins in the 1980s USA. Season Four is jam-packed with TV goodness and outstanding crafts in everything ranging from the storyline, characters, acting, settings, and cinematography to the soundtrack. It develops the fascinatingly complex sci-fi concepts of the previous seasons even further within three distinct plotlines.
The Duffer Brothers successfully produced the spectacular worlds in the drama. The soundtrack pumps out classic 1980s tunes and goosebump-inducing sound effects to convey the eery atmosphere caused by the looming alternate reality, the Upside Down. Likewise, the Upside Down — characterised by the hellish red sky, dark objects, and snaky blue atmosphere infused with floating decayed particles — that viewers are all too familiar with now is made even more terrifying with the ominous addition of a location: the new monster Vecna’s hive mind. Here he parades his kills like prized trophies.
Although the last season came out three years ago, this one nonetheless went all out.
After mentally luring his victims into a trance, Vecna supernaturally entraps them. His first victim, Chrissy, succumbs to intrigue upon hearing the grandfather clock ring. She falls into a trance as her eyes become strained and veined whilst Vecna communicates from his world within her mind. Leading up to the final kill, she then levitates and her body grossly — sickeningly — contorts and snaps and her eyes are magically punched as the two realities collide. I couldn’t help wincing at these bits.
The storyline unsurprisingly improves in each new season, but I contend that Season Four improved threefold. Although the last season came out three years ago, this one nonetheless went all out. Just when I thought I finally truly knew Eleven (“11”) or Jane (Millie Bobby Brown), her backstory develops even further. Innumerable flashbacks to Eleven’s time at the child experimentation laboratory feast us to the traumas that scar her. Brown’s acting skills are admirable when she is reunited with Doctor Brennan, or “Papa”, during her return to Hawkins laboratory in Chapter Five. In response to his unexpected appearance, she fluently exhibits multiple emotions of apprehension, trauma, rage, and terror, conveying Eleven’s aversion towards “Papa”.
Photo by Rafal Werczynski via Unsplash
This volume climaxes on a massive cliffhanger at the end of Chapter Seven. A laboratory staff worker is revealed to be the legendary, omnipotent One (“001”). He is then revealed to be the antagonistic villain Vecna. Leaving us on a mid-season cliffhanger is certainly a unique marketing strategy. Perhaps it wasn’t the greatest idea to release the season in two volumes an entire month apart given our contemporary binge-watching culture and short attention spans.
In retrospect, the season thus far has indeed delivered quality entertainment that had me on the edge of my seat with my hair raised, spine shivering, and eyes vigilant. If this is Volume One, I cannot wait to see what twists Volume Two brings.