[Editor’s Note: The following story contains spoilers for “Stranger Things 4: Vol. 2.”]
The horror for “Stranger Things 4” has truly been turned up to Eleven.
Just ask Millie Bobby Brown, who plays gifted teen Eleven. According to co-star Jamie Campbell Bower, Brown couldn’t even look at season villain Vecna, played by Bower.
“They brought her up into a position where she’s bound. I walked up to her [as Vecna] and she burst into tears,” Bower told Variety. “She wouldn’t look at me and she was visibly just disgusted by the whole thing.”
However, Brown calmed down after she knew it was Bower under the prosthetics.
“After she cried and I made it obvious that she knew it was me, one of the things she said was that, ‘I knew it was you when I could smell cigarettes,’ because I’m a smoker,” Bower added.
Vecna’s origins are uncovered during “Stranger Things 4: Vol. 2,” now streaming. “Stranger Things” prosthetics designer Barrie Gower crafted a second skin for Bower that included 25 pieces of latex and silicone rubber material glued to his body by a medical adhesive. The veins overlayed on top of Vecna’s skin were mostly real, with just 10 percent of the effects from CGI for vine extensions. Bower’s transformation into Vecna took over seven and a half hours each day, with his call time at 3 a.m. to prep for 10 to 12 hours of shooting.
More about how the “Stranger Things” team designed the monster in IndieWire’s coverage here.
The grotesque aspect of Vecna is inspired by ’80s horror classics, particularly “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Vecna’s look was directly based on Freddy Kreuger, played by Robert Englund who also makes a cameo in “Stranger Things 4.”
“The Duffers wanted to push the explosiveness of it,” VFX supervisor Michael Maher told IndieWire, citing the vine extensions for Vecna’s villainous look. “The texture matches Vecna, who’s in control of his environment and everything stems from him. He’s attached to the vines that lift him up. It’s like a spiderweb. Black widows are a big part of the season as a metaphor. Essentially, the vines in the Upside Down are coming and melding with him so he can get in this meditative state.”
Maher explained the Season 4 effects and prosthetics had to match the darker tone for the series as a whole. “As the kids grow, you need to abandon some of the immaturity and move into heavier themes,” Maher said. “The first season was about friendship and this season is more about power and responsibility and what can happen with too much power.”