The Stranger Things Crew Had Some Concerns About Going Darker With Season 4

Fans of "Stranger Things" who have experienced the glorious, gory madness of season 4 have likely noticed the Netflix series' shift from creepy sci-fi to outright horror. While the overall positive reception of the season thus far (since we still have "Vol. 2" to look forward to in July) indicates that the darker tone of "Stranger Things 4" wasn't a problem for most viewers, executive producer Shawn Levy revealed that there was some hesitancy concerning the show's shift to the darker side, as they feared it would alienate certain demographics of the fanbase.

Everybody loves being scared s***less

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Levy discussed the trepidation surrounding season 4's heavy horror imagery, saying

"I was occasionally nervous that the show was going so dark, it would be off-putting to the younger viewers that have flocked to our show. When we made season one, we thought this was a 13-and-over kind of viewing experience. What we now know is that kids as young as 9 and 10 are watching Stranger Things, and I knew that this season would be scary as shit for some of those viewers. The Duffers, to their credit, pointed out that every time we go darker, somehow our audience stays with us and grows."

While the concern for younger viewers is admirable and not without merit, it turns out that, for better or worse, people of all ages enjoy things that are "scary as s**t." In fact, the debut of season 4 of "Stranger Things" is Netflix's biggest premiere weekend to date, and the social media buzz has hardly died down despite the current break between volumes 1 and 2.

How dark is darker?

"Stranger Things" isn't exactly known for being a peaceful and lighthearted series to begin with, so what makes season 4 so much darker than its predecessors? For one thing, this season features a lot more blood and gore than those that came before it, so much so that Netflix decided to add a content warning before the first episode, which opens with the bloody aftermath of a child massacre that featured the mangled and mutilated corpses of Eleven's peers.

In addition to kicking the season off with ill-timed imagery of slain children, "Stranger Things 4" also pulls a lot of inspiration from 80s horror movies and slasher flicks, with "A Nightmare on Elm Street" serving as the most obvious source. Not only is there supernatural entity who enjoys torturing teenagers by inducing their worst nightmares, but there's a cameo by Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger throughout the horror franchise. 

There's also the fact that Vecna, the season's villain, looks like the Crypt Keeper started doing crossfit training and enjoys inflicting extreme body horror on his victims by horrifically breaking all of their limbs and removing their eyeballs. 

And don't get me started on Hopper's Russian torture sequence, the relentless bullying of a powerless Eleven, and the "too-close-to-home" Satanic Panic mob led by a disquietingly all-American high school jock. 

There's a lot going on in "Stranger Things" 4 that makes it notably less lighthearted than previous seasons, but we can't wait for more. When you really think about it, it kind of makes sense that as things get stranger, they also get darker.

The first volume of "Stranger Things" season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix, and volume 2 premieres on July 1, 2022.