REVIEW: The enveloping and gripping sci-fi drama of the Duffer Brothers is back with a vengeance.

Ever since its debut in 2016, Stranger Things has been one of Netflix’s most beloved series, its blend of warm nostalgia and compelling chills making for a powerful combination.

While it may wear its 1980s inspirations on its sleeve, on its bedroom walls, and in its very DNA, its wider appeal is due to the clever dialogue, tremendous tension building, and multiple storylines.

These three elements come to the fore as the highly anticipated fourth season begins just months after the “Battle of Starcourt Mall.”

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After such a rough year, with so many losses, Hawkins, Indiana needs something to believe in and maybe the high school basketball team’s push to the conference finals of 1986 might just provide that.

Although a very peripheral player, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) is convinced that his presence could be the ticket to popularity for him, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Mike (Finn Wolfhard). However, when a vital game collides with the Hellfire Club’s biggest Dungeon & Dragons party of the year, his and each other’s loyalty are tested.

In the new season of Stranger Things, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) discovers that California high school life isn't as rosy as she first thought.

Provided

In the new season of Stranger Things, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) discovers that California high school life isn’t as rosy as she first thought.

Out west, stripped of her telekinetic powers, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is sure she’s finally adjusting to a new life in California. Adopted by Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), who got a job selling encyclopedias over the phone, she loves life at Lenora Hills High School because “everyone is so nice here.” However, this turns out to be a nefarious facade – it’s not long before the cliques and mean girls start showing their true colors towards her, potentially pushing Eleven to the breaking point, while “brother” Will (Noah Schnapp) looks on in horror.

Meanwhile, Joyce has her own riddle when a mysterious package shows up on her doorstep bearing enough Soviet postage stamps to make a philatelist salivate. Is it safe to open?

Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) finds himself torn between his basketball commitments and his loyalty to fellow Hellfire Club members Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo).

Provided

Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) finds himself torn between his basketball commitments and his loyalty to fellow Hellfire Club members Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo).

With all of these threads nicely blending character moments with in-depth mysteries – and coming after an eight-minute opener, 1979 Hawkins National Laboratories, that will leave you shaken and stirred – prepare to waste a few nights on Stranger Things (especially with every chapter lasting between 63 and 77 minutes and enough visual horror to keep you up at night). Also, don’t expect a resolution – two of the nine episodes in this so-called penultimate season have been held back until July 1.

What you can guarantee are thrills, more than a few really scary moments and plenty of 1980s pop culture references for Gen-Xers like me.

In the opening episode alone there’s the terrific use of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill atmosphere, a gorgeous throwaway use of an iconic line from The Empire Strikes Back, similarities cleverly understated featuring one of Ryder’s earliest films and a hilarious reference to an iconic movie. moment: “53 minutes and five seconds into Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, as one character observes.

Season 4 of Strange Things begins streaming on Netflix in New Zealand on the evening of Friday, May 29.