Remember the first season of “Stranger Things”? It was all about 12-year-olds with walkie-talkies, baby faces and powerful friendships that helped defeat monsters from a dark world.

Well, the cast grew up and so did the show. Friendships became more complicated, language became dirtier and kissing got involved, as did scarier monsters.

“Stranger Things” follows a group of friends in 1980s Indiana who witness strange things happening in their small town. As they search for answers, they come across extraordinary revelations.

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The returning cast includes Millie Bobby Brown, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Gaten Matarazzo, Sadie Sink, Maya Hawke, Joe Keery, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton and Cara Buono.

Bigger and bolder

Season 4, Volume 1 — the latest of the science-fiction horror series — debuted on Netflix on May 27 and has already clocked in “286.79 million hours of viewing time worldwide from May 25-27,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. This puts the show ahead of viewership for Netflix’s “Bridgerton” Season 2, which garnered 193 million hours of watch time in its opening weekend.

The new season grew in budget and length — each of the 9 episodes cost $30 million, with hourlong runtimes.

Supersizing elements of drama is to be expected if the assumption is that the 12-year-olds who watched the show’s first season are now 18 and ready for more adult-content now, said The Guardian critic Jack Seale.

“What was once a spooky but essentially cute thriller, in hock to Steven Spielberg, has taken on elements of full-blown horror inspired by The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Seale added.

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Kyle Wilson from The Lamplight Review also pegged the season as “longer, bloodier, and scarier,” adding that it successfully “provides ample frights and a frustrating wait until the season’s movie length final two episodes,” which will come to Netflix in July.

What’s new?

It’s clear that this season has bigger ambitions. For one, the storylines are set in three major locations — Hawkins, Indiana, California and Russia.

The new villain is no pushover either. He plays into themes of dread as “a more humanoid-looking monster in the vein of classic supernatural serial killers,” said Matt Duffer, who is a co-creator, executive producer, writer and director of the show, in an interview with Netflix.

Characters this season also spend a lot more time in the Upside Down, a dark dimension full of monsters, spiders and bats.

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“This year, we really wanted to explore a little bit of how that worked, and we wanted to see it from the side of the Upside Down,” said Ross Duffer, co-creator, executive producer, writer and director.

New cast members include Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson, the head of a Dungeons & Dragons group called The Hellfire Club; Eduardo Franco as Argyle; Jamie Campbell as Peter Ballard, who works at a psychiatric hospital; and Tom Wlaschiha as Dimitri, one of the Russian prison guards.

What should parents know?

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With that said, Season 4 — like the other seasons of “Stranger Things” — is rated TV-14 for fear, language, gore and smoking.

If language was a concern for you before, the latest in the series amps up the curse words. There are some kissing scenes and sexual references that are a bit racy, as well as more drug use depicted than in the past.

Meanwhile, the gore takes on a life of its own, with bodies being twisted, eyeballs popping out and a whole lot more blood. Critics don’t call it the scariest season yet for no reason.

Netflix even added a warning before the show in light of the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — the first 10 minutes of Episode 1 show children being slain, with bloody and horrific images on the screen.

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