This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things 4, so go watch Volume One before reading!
It’s clear that The Duffer Brothers have plenty of influences from the ’80s and ’90s in Stranger Things. The two Writer/Directors might’ve kept the horror homages to a limit in the first three seasons, but this fourth season of Stranger Things really lays on the influence. Whether that’s casting Robert Englund as a pivotal character or just the feel of the villain Vecna, they’re clearly fans of A Nightmare On Elm Street. Throughout Volume One there are plenty of moments that feel straight out of those films. However, it might seem like the original Nightmare is the most influential, I’d say they borrow a whole lot more from A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
Think back to how Dream Warriors was structured and how the characters interacted with one another. Stranger Things 4 might have more characters, but it has people learning to work together and separate camps working for a common goal. Stranger Things 4 has Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Argyle in California/West Coast; Nancy, Steve, Max, Lucas, Dustin, Robin, and Eddie in Hawkins; Eleven, Dr. Owens, and Dr. Brenner at the NINA facility; and finally it has Joyce, Murray, Yuri, Dmitri, and Hopper in Alaska/Russia. Compare that to Dream Warriors with Nancy, Kristen, Kincaid, Joey, Taryn, and Will at the facility, while Lt. Thompson and Neil are out trying to put Freddy’s bones to rest. All the while Freddy is trying to stop both groups.
Vecna in Stranger Things 4 does the same thing, and the characters can even tell when his gaze is off them. Like Freddy, he can’t be everywhere at once, even if his powers are almost limitless. It’s what Vecna does to his victims that’s most similar to Freddy though.
“This… Is God”
NO, SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED STRANGER THINGS 4, EPISODE 7 YET, GO WATCH IT BEFORE READING FURTHER.
Compare the two origins of Vecna (#001) and Freddy Krueger. Both are child-killing maniacs. #001 started off with a strange childhood that grew into murdering animals and eventually people. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare might not be the greatest film in the series, but it does give us a bit of a look into Freddy’s upbringing. He has an abusive father and his conception was a hundred maniacs sexually assaulting his mother. It’s tragic.
#001 massacres the kids at the Hawkins lab, he almost kills Eleven and then continues his rampage far after Eleven sends him to the Upside Down. Depending on how you believe about Freddy’s Nightmares being part of the Nightmare On Elm Street canon, the pilot episode goes deeper into the cause and events that made Freddy Krueger into a monster. It might be a cheesy way to do it, but #001 and Freddy aren’t too dissimilar.
The thing that really ties the two together is the Upside Down. Vecna can’t really shape that world into whatever he wants as Freddy can, but his powers are amplified and almost limitless there. However, in the real world, there are limits, just like Freddy. Think about the atmosphere of Freddy’s dream world from the original movie, it’s dark, dreary, and always cold.
It’s All About The Look
Take a look at that image, and tell me that they weren’t inspired by Freddy Krueger. Vecna might not have burned in eternal fire and received his powers from ancient demons, the vitriol of the families he slew or is an ancient demon himself (depending on which A Nightmare On Elm Street film you watch), but he’s got the look. He does have the voice and plays the same mind games that Freddy plays though. Vecna uses his victim’s greatest wounds or fears against them. With Chrissy it was her overbearing mother forcing her to undereat, Fred had to see the horrific car crash from the year before, we haven’t had a good indication of why he’s going after Patrick, and the two survivors of Vecna: Max and Nancy, both had their fears of Billy and Barb turned against them.
We’ll have to see the extent of Vecna/#001’s power when we get Volume 2 of Stranger Things 4. The flashback scene at the end of episode 7 was an eye-opener as to what everyone is dealing with in this season. The transformation and descent into the Upside Down for #001 were reminiscent of Freddy’s transformation throughout A Nightmare On Elm Street. When you add in Robert Englund’s presence and his monologue to Nancy and Robin at the Institution, you get quite a NIghtmare On Elm Street-inspired season.
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