A hero’s a hero, but everyone loves a great villain.
In the case of the upcoming fourth season of “Stranger Things,” fans will be introduced to Vecna — a ghoulish, powerful lich that slithers out of the Upside Down to wreak havoc on Hawkins.
“Vecna makes a Demogorgon look cuddly,” executive producer and director Shawn Levy told Variety on Saturday night at the worldwide premiere of “Stranger Things 4” in Brooklyn, N.Y.
David Harbour, who stars as Hawkins police chief Jim Hopper, teased how Vecna embodies a new horror element that “Stranger Things” viewers haven’t seen before.
“Vecna is a psychological horror that I don’t think we’ve really seen,” Harbour told Variety. “The Upside Down has been this wild west world where there are creatures running around, there’s violence, but we’ve never seen something as calculatedly psychologically evil as this. That’s exciting because he is a true big bad that we’ve needed in the series.”
The third season, which was released nearly three years ago, left off with Hopper seemingly being killed by sacrificing himself to close the gate to the Upside Down. Hopper is far from dead, however, and is being held at an icy gulag in Russia.
“In a way, a piece of him does die when this happens,” Harbour said. “[Hopper] needed to shed these layers that had been growing on him, this kind of gunk that prevented him from being the man that could battle this evil in the Upside Down.”
He continued, “I don’t directly deal with [Vecna], my storyline’s a little different, but there’s a Demogorgon in a Russian prison that I got to deal with. It’s pretty terrifying.”
Paying homage to the first season of “Stranger Things” and the ‘80s horror films that inspired it, Vecna was brought to life using mostly practical effects. Joe Keery, who plays Steve Harrington, said he was inspired by the way special effects were used on set.
“As a fan of practical effects and classic horror-adventure movies, it’s unparalleled,” Keery told Variety. “There aren’t other people that are doing similar things to this, so as the fan in me, I was just freaking out.”
Gaten Matarazzo, who stars as Dustin Henderson, teased that Vecna will shift the series in an unforeseen direction.
“The craziest thing is just how new and fresh the villain feels compared to what we’ve had before,” Matarazzo said. “It’s something that brings a whole new vibe to how we deal with our villains in ‘Stranger Things’ and how we will continue to do so going forward.”
Dustin, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Will (Noah Schnapp) are now new members of the Hellfire Club, Hawkins High’s “Dungeons & Dragons” crew. The group is led by the zany and outspoken metalhead Eddie Munson, played by newcomer Joseph Quinn. He discussed how terrifying the prosthetics of Vecna looked on set, at least while he was on-camera.
“It was weird to see him on camera and he’s so terrifying, and then you see him off-camera with an iced latte. It’s quite a funny image,” Quinn said.
Priah Ferguson, who plays the sassy Erica Sinclair, said that the horror elements that make Vecna so terrifying go beyond the typical jumpscare cliché.
“Vecna is very scary,” Ferguson said. “It’s something that messes with your mind. I think that’s gonna get the audience a little bit more freaked out because that freaks me out more than jumpscares.”
She continued, “As ‘Stranger Things’ goes on, the show always gets darker and scarier, and that’s because the audience grows.”
The first volume of “Stranger Things 4” will debut on Netflix on May 27.