It’s been three weeks since the release of Stranger Things 4. The show really shook the world and was the most important season–I mean, it put Kate Bush back on the charts (where she rightfully belongs). While the press time has seemingly passed, I wanted to discuss the horror references in the show. I also wanted to do this without giving spoilers way too early in the cycle, so here it is now.
This season was a tad bit scarier that the seasons in the past. With that came more horror movie references that made my heart giddy. It was fun to pick these out and cheer when an homage was made, so why not share my list with the world and see if there was any you might have missed. Without further ado, here are five references you might have missed in Stranger Things 4.
Vecna’s Attacks: A Nightmare on Elm Street
The first episode traverses through the torment that Chrissy goes through. It is a no brainer that the way Vecna attacks and manipulates his victims is an homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street. This trance that those who are cursed go under emulates a dreamlike state that can be fully controlled by the gruesome ruler of the Upside Down. Vecna poses as people to get under the victim’s skin. He traps them in a mental cage. He changes the scene at will. All of these are tactics that Freddy pulls from time to time.
Vecna’s appearance almost reflects Freddy Krueger. The disfiguration caused to Henry is very similar to the burn marks and scars seen on the slasher villain. Mixed in is the brutality of the kill–another thing they seem to have in common. A Nightmare on Elm Street is famous for its notoriously gruesome kills and the style in which Vecna kills his victims could fit right in.
Victor Creel: Speaking of Nightmare
Speaking of Freddy Krueger, the man behind the burns makes an appearance in the “Dear Billy” episode. Instead of being the perpetrator this time, he acts as father of the perpetrator in a twist. Robert Englund delivers in the haunting role, sporting grueling eye prosthetics. It’s his story that pushes the narrative further into the question of who is Vecna and what does he want.
Despite Victor being a victim rather than a villain, there’s no denying he’s connected to it all. Unfortunately, he’s even confused as to how and why he was targeted, and the events ruin his life forever–leading to him gouging his eyes out in grief. It’s a monologue that will stick with you and ultimately propels the story, therefore a great use and nod to Robert Englund and his character’s influence on the Stranger Things bad guy.
Steve Pulled Under: Jaws
There was a lot of surprises this season, and “Watergate” was one of them. The newly opened gate is discovered by Steve in his deep dive down Lovers’ Lake. Covered with suspicious tentacles, its presence is as ominous as it is threatening. As he swims up to inform the group, we are greeted with a reference from the first blockbuster ever.
First, he is pulled down quickly. Next, he bobs up to react. Suddenly the underwater beast pulls him into the depths and through the mouth of the gate. Steve’s abduction is quite reminiscent of the first kill in the Spielberg classic Jaws. The first jerk down is always the most terrifying. Seeing the panic in Steve’s eyes and the transition of confusion to terror in the rest of the group is what sells the scene. It acts as the perfect reintroduction to traversing through the Upside Down.
A Rope Between Two Dimensions: Poltergeist
Speaking of Spielberg classics, he acted as producer for the next film referenced. After their adventures through the Upside Down and their brawl with the Demobats, the gang make the connection between the deaths and the gates. They meet up with the others in Eddie’s trailer and cook up a method of escape.
This method of escape emulates a very iconic scene from Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. The rope that they throw up into the other dimension has the same kind of effect and look as the one used by the mother to save Carol Anne. Paired with the same emotional feeling of reuniting only for something terribly wrong to ruin it, it’s impossible to deny this is a Poltergeist reference.
Eddie and a Spider’s Form: It
Finally, the number one comparison to Stranger Things is IT. Their similarity to each other is the reason for comparison, in which the series’ fourth installment further emphasized. The number one thing to bring up–even though it saddens me beyond belief–is the death of Eddie. It is general knowledge that IT packs an emotional punch with the death of their Eddie, and the Duffer Brothers decided to take that in the same direction. Eddie Munson died a hero and so did Eddie Kaspbrak.
We also got the tidbit of information that Vecna was behind the Mind Flayer. More importantly, he made it in the form of a spider due to his fascination with spiders. A spider form is kind of the butt of the joke in regard to the IT miniseries, as it is the “ultimate” form of the alien in the final battle. So, the comparisons to IT took on rather ironic levels in the season’s big plot twist.
This season was a wild ride and climbed the list to be my second favorite season of the show. I hope you enjoyed it as well and are hopefully exiting your mourning period for fictional characters. We have to wait two more years for the Stranger Things series finale, but in the meantime, let me know if there were any references that I might have missed or if there is anything you’re looking forward to next season. You can watch Stranger Things here on Netflix.
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