Hey! Hallie here!
‘Stranger Things’ is one of the best shows to watch to get into the Halloween spirit. No matter which season you watch, you’re always in for a nice spooky aesthetic and a good amount of satisfying scares. Even viewers who don’t like Horror, such as myself, can enjoy ‘Stranger Things’ without having to run screaming from the screen. But it’s hard to watch all three Stranger Things seasons before October is over, especially with the list of essential Halloween movies to watch on top of all that. So which season should you narrow it down to? Before I get into this, I’ll be talking in depth about character arcs and the scariest parts of the series, so SPOILERS up ahead. With that out of the way, let’s look deeper into each season of ‘Stranger Things’ and see which one is best to watch for the Halloween season.
Season 1: This one is the most classic option. It serves as an introduction to the characters and the supernatural elements of the show. This season follows three of the characters Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, as they try to find their missing friend, Will. Meanwhile, Eleven has escaped from a government facility that has been experimenting with things they really shouldn’t be. Namely tapping into an alternate universe the characters call the Upside Down, which has opened the way for the Demogorgon to terrorize Hawkins, Indiana. This season uses fear of the unknown as it’s tactic to scare the audience. You don’t really see the Demogorgon until later in the season, but in the meantime you get Barb getting dragged screaming into the Upside Down and something reaching through the wall towards Joyce after she attempts to communicate with Will. When you do see the Demogorgon, the show has built up the creature enough for you to be properly terrified by its appearance. Plus, you never get a great look at it because lights tend to flash on and off whenever it’s nearby. Otherwise, the story is a mostly wholesome one of found family, and though Eleven sacrifices herself to get rid of the Demogorgon, you know she isn’t gone forever. It’s the most feel-good watch on this list, with a fair amount of scary that won’t leave you hiding behind your couch in fear. This season plays it mostly safe, but the fear of the unknown, plus the classic feel of the story, makes it a good spooky watch.
Season 2: Season 2 has one major advantage in this comparison. It takes place during Halloween. The series starts out with the group we got to know last season going trick-or-treating as Ghostbusters. This season advertised it’s main monster as the giant Mind Flayer, but the Mind Flayer isn’t much more than a large, dark, shape. The scariest thing it does is possess Will, which is more frustrating than it is frightening. The most frightening creatures the characters face in this season are the Demodogs. Initially the Demodogs don’t seem like much. After all, Dustin takes in D’Artagnan, or Dart for short, when he’s still a baby. Dart isn’t the prettiest, but he isn’t intimidating either. Until Dart eats Dustin’s cat, that is. The Demodogs aren’t scary, but they are brutal. Bob Newby’s death is probably the hardest one to watch in the entire series. That’s where most of the scare factor comes in for Season 2. It’s not necessarily the most gruesome season, but it is the most brutal. As for the story, it’s the most disjointed of all the seasons. This doesn’t make it bad, but it means it’s dealing with a lot of different story elements that often find the show pushing it’s main conflict, and thus it’s scarier elements, to the background. Instead we get Eleven finding her mother, hunting down her siblings, and attempting to come to terms with Hopper as her father. We get Mike moping over Eleven while everyone tries to figure out what’s wrong with Will. And we get Steve Harrington being the best babysitter ever. It’s good character development, but maybe not so strong on it’s Upside Down contributions. Still, it has that Halloween aesthetic you won’t get watching the other seasons.
Season 3: This season promised to be the scariest one yet, and it delivered. The Mind Flayer reached it’s full potential by finally showing off it’s true power and possessing multiple people at once. Of course, the main vessel the Mind Flayer used was Billy. Instead of Billy’s possession being treated as an obstacle, Billy, as the Mind Flayer, was a villain all on his own. He was a frightening one too. He could easily overpower any of the main characters and his human appearance made it easy for him to lull victims into a sense of security. This is where the major fear factor comes in for this season. This season was mostly frightening for being disturbingly gruesome. The Mind Flayer used Billy to help it possess others because they, once melted into a gross, pink paste, could help the Mind Flayer regain it’s original form. This resulted in many, many, scenes of rats, and then humans, exploding and melting. When the Mind Flayer finally arrives, it looks, predictably, disgusting. Billy sacrifices himself to get rid of the Mind Flayer, and to add insult to injury, Hopper looks as though he dies after trying to close the gate to the Upside Down. (Let’s not forget poor, adorable, Alexei dies too.) This season ends up with an ending quite a bit darker than the others. The story for this season took things that audiences liked about the past seasons, and it made them stronger. It let Dustin spend most of his time with Steve. To join them they introduced one of the best characters Stranger Things has to offer, Robin, and expanded on the hilarious sister of Lucas, Erica. They explored Hopper being a father and they brought Murray into the spotlight. They let Eleven and Max spend time together and they tackled the hardships of working in a sexist workplace with Nancy. This season balances its frightening elements and it’s character development the best of the seasons.
So what’s the verdict? There’s pros and cons to each. If you’re looking for something a little more suspenseful and a little less scary, choose the first season. You’ll get a more wholesome story with some creepy vibes that won’t be too upsetting. If you’re looking for that Halloween aesthetic, choose Season 2. With some darker sets and Fall as the general background, you’ll definitely feel like it belongs alongside the other essential Halloween content. If you’re looking for something scarier with some interesting character arcs, choose the third season. The sight of the Mind Flayer alone should satisfy any desire for something disturbingly chilling this Halloween. As for my personal opinion, Season 3 balances the storylines I love in ‘Stranger Things’ the most skillfully. Regardless of what you pick, you’re in for an enjoyable Halloween.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!