Roush Review: 'Stranger Things' 3 Has a Light Touch, Even in the Darker Moments

Matt Roush
Review NETFLIX

Few things are as all-American as the Fourth of July, carnivals — and sequels.

Stranger Things is quickly becoming the Jurassic Park of TV, getting bigger and sillier with each irresistible new installment of the monster-mash thrill ride. It seems only fitting that the third season's explosive climax occurs amid a cacophony of fireworks at a Fun Fair on our nation's birthday, circa 1985.

Shows You Should Be Watching Now #1: 'Stranger Things'

Shows You Should Be Watching Now #1: 'Stranger Things'

Plus, the cast previews what's in store — lots of new faces! — for the Netflix series' third season.

Fun is, after all, the point of this nostalgic horror romp. The series continues to weave Stephen King eeriness and Spielbergian emotional excess into its tall tale of supernatural menace repeatedly thwarted by lovably nerdy kids and a few hardy adults in the heartland burg of Hawkins, Indiana. This time, there are shivery echoes of Willard (so many rats), George A. Romero's zombie classics, The Terminator (in the form of an implacably unstoppable assassin) and the bilious ooze of The Blob.

While the mayhem over eight episodes can grow repetitive and tiresome — I lost count of how many times bodies were hurled against and sometimes through walls — there's a light touch even in the darker moments. Because above all, and beyond the screams, scares, last-second rescues from subterranean fortresses, and occasional gruesomeness (rarely extreme), Stranger Things wants you to love and care deeply about its characters.

(Credit: Netflix)

Easily done, when played so appealingly by the likes of David Harbour as blustery police chief Jim Hopper and Winona Ryder as harried single mom Joyce Byers. Her new obsession: malfunctioning magnets, which she's sure are an omen of bad things. (And, of course, she's right.)

The antics of the misfit kid heroes, playing spy games at a flashy new mall, are complicated by a surge of teenage hormones, especially in psychic superhero Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Deprived of a normal childhood, the former lab rat can't always fathom her feelings for smitten Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), and learning that boyfriends lie can be nearly as crushing as the latest assault by a multi-tentacled Mind Flayer from the netherworld.

New 'Stranger Things 3' Trailer Raises the Stakes Against the Upside Down (VIDEO)

New 'Stranger Things 3' Trailer Raises the Stakes Against the Upside Down (VIDEO)

'You let us in and now you are going to have to let us stay.'

With the move toward spin the bottle and away from Dungeons & Dragons comes a romantic ache for the loss of childhood and innocence.Thankfully, the good spirits and rollicking terrors of Stranger Things have a way of making anyone feel young again. 

Stranger ThingsSeason 3 Premiere, Thursday, July 4, Netflix