After the show leapt straight from midwinter to Halloween, a curious trick common to small towns with dark secrets, summer’s finally here. With the heat on and the cast wearing less, this new teaser takes the interesting decision of sidelining the synthy ’80s shlock horror for which the franchise is known, and the show’s ostensible protagonists, in favour of teasing a forbidden-fruit relationship between rugged bad-boy Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) and Mike’s mom Karen (Cara Buono). Like the bulk of Billy’s actual character development, the first hint of this was squeaked into the final episode of the second season – a telltale sign that the Duffer brothers knew they were getting a third, although given Stranger Things’ runaway success you can’t really blame them.
A lot of news outlets have described this as taking the tone of an ’80s teen sex comedy, and while there is something of the American Pie about the local mothers drooling over a lifeguard half their age, this misses the point. Stranger Things is in many ways a remix of classic horror films, dropping in a trope here and a character arc there, and the slasher subgenre has always been sexually charged, even beyond it featuring the typical Hollywood cast of pretty people in loose clothing. As early as 1996, Wes Craven’s Scream pointed squarely to the ‘rules’ of horror films, one of which was that if you have sex, you have to die (the other rules were ‘don’t drink or do drugs’, and ‘never say “I’ll be right back”, because you won’t be’). By contrast, the last main character standing is usually a young woman who’s resisted temptation, the so-called ‘final girl’. If you’re thinking this makes all the classic slasher villains – Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, your man with the chainsaw – sound like morally judgmental prudes, then you’d be absolutely right.
All eight episodes of the new season are scheduled to go live on Netflix on the 4th of July – a holiday it appears the season itself will cover. On the face of it, Independence Day is a distinctly less scary holiday than Halloween, or even Christmas, so the show’s got an uphill struggle ahead.