Why Stranger Things Needed To Go Harder On Horror In Season 4, According To The Creators

Millie Bobby Brown and the cast of Stranger Things in Season 3
(Image credit: Netflix)

Stranger Things has its fair share of scary moments but, now, we know that the upcoming fourth season will double down on the terror. And according to the Duffer brothers, the creators of the fan-favorite show, it’s a reflection of the evolving characters.  

In an interview with Netflix Tudum, Ross Duffer explained the tonal shift in Stranger Things Season 4. The writer, director and producer said:

When we pitched it to Netflix all those years ago, we pitched it as the kids are…’The Goonies’ in ‘E.T.’ That’s their storyline. And the adults are in ‘Jaws’ and ‘Close Encounters’ and then the teens are in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ or ‘Halloween.’ But, this year, we don’t have the kids. We can’t do ‘The Goonies’ anymore. And so, suddenly, we’re leaning much harder into that horror movie territory that we love. It was fun to make that change.

The first few seasons of the sci-fi dramedy featured a cast that was primarily made up of child actors. The tone of the show was devised accordingly: the episodes definitely had some scary scenes, but the overall vibe was far less frightening than a more mature horror project. Season 1 did not have nearly as much gore as future installments, and even the Mind Flayer got progressively more fearsome as time went on. 

As the stars age, however, Matt and Ross Duffer opted to let Stranger Things grow with them. The show has steadily employed more terrifying moments, including Bob Newby’s shockingly bloody death in Season 2 (which fans still want justice for) and Billy’s demise at the hands of the Mind Flayer in Season 3. Even the special effects got a little more realistic, which was especially apparent during those nasty exploding rat scenes that left an indelible mark on my nightmares. 

The scarier tone doesn’t just go for the supernatural elements, either. Season 3 saw Mike, Eleven, and the gang deal with slightly more mature issues, including relationships, death, and, horror of horrors, the looming threat of high school (no doubt the biggest threat to the gang since they first discovered the Upside Down). 

It’s tempting to wax nostalgic for the campy innocence of Season 1, but Stranger Things is always at its best when it revolves around its main cast of adolescents. To force them to remain stagnant would be to deny the inevitable adventure of growing up, whether that’s in real life or in a small town in Indiana, something the Duffer Brothers are clearly aware of. 

The first three seasons of Stranger Things are available to stream now with your Netflix subscription. Season 4 will be released in two volumes, with the first batch of episodes dropping on the streaming service on May 27 and the second on July 1. You can also check out more upcoming TV releases to binge while you wait for the next installment in the pop culture phenomenon.

Rachel Romean

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.