Entertainment TV 'Stranger Things' Season 4 Review: The Supernatural Hit Is Back — and Scarier The first seven episodes of Stranger Things season 4 drop Friday on Netflix, with episodes 8 and 9 premiering on July 1 By Tom Gliatto Published on May 26, 2022 11:11 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Courtesy of Netflix Stranger Things has been gone nearly three years — the previous season launched July 4, 2019 — so fans are being rewarded for their patience. The fear factor has been upped considerably in these seven new episodes, sometimes to a level that's close to American Horror Story or The Haunting of Hill House. Everything to Know About Stranger Things Season 4 The last few minutes of episode 4, for instance, will have you biting the sofa pillows: A major runs in terror across a blood-red dreamscape, dodging a terrifying new monster named Vecna. A swampy thing with deadly tapered fingers and, somewhat distractingly, the physique of a fitness instructor, this Vecna hoists his victims up in the air and breaks their limbs with a loud crunch. (So keep those sofa pillows handy!) Such scares compensate for the fact that the plot is a bit sprawling — season 3, after all, dispersed everyone (or nearly everyone) to what seemed like moderately promising futures, probably free from having to worry about the horrors of the Upside Down. Not so. "This evil, it's like a virus," we're told. "Each time it returns, it comes back stronger, smarter, deadlier." In other words, it's like the Downton Abbey movies. Stranger Things: A Look Back on How Season 3 Ended Courtesy of Netflix The heart of the show remains poor Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), still traumatized but no longer with her remarkable powers. In one of the show's strongest scenes, she has to resort to throwing a punch with a roller skate in her hand. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. The first seven episodes of Stranger Things season 4 drop Friday on Netflix, with episodes 8 and 9 premiering on July 1.