Why Stranger Things Season 4 Showrunners Compared Vecna To Freddy Krueger

The end of "Stranger Things" season 3 left the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana adrift both figuratively and literally (and in the case of David Harbour's Jim Hopper, very, very literally). With the "Dungeons & Dragons" party scattered and a little shattered, the future for the characters in season 4 would seem precarious enough.

Of course, that means they'll find themselves forced to deal with not just the return of shenanigans from the extradimensional "Upside Down," but a brand new major villain character, Vecna. According to creators and writers Matt and Ross Duffer, Vecna isn't just another evil beastie as season 2 and 3's Mind Flayer had been. Instead, he's a diabolical force to be reckoned with, a fully fledged monster rather than simply a creature.

In IGN's trailer breakdown (via Bloody Disgusting), the Duffer Brothers don't compare Vecna to just any old monster, but invoke the name of one of the greatest screen villains of all time: Freddy Krueger. That invocation isn't made lightly or coincidentally, either, because one of the stars of season 4 is none other than the man who brought Freddy to life: actor Robert Englund.

How Vecna's 'Dungeons & Dragons' origins could be connected to Freddy—and Englund's new character

As is "Stranger Things" tradition, Vecna is deliberately named after a powerful villain from the "Dungeons & Dragons" role-playing game. According to the D&D 4e Wiki, the game's version of Vecna is an "evil god of secrets, the undead and necromancy." A one-time wizard who became a lich — essentially a type of undead creature — Vecna sought to become a master of dark magic. When he was betrayed and murdered by his lieutenant, a vampire named Kas the Bloody-Handed, only his left hand and left eye survived, and now the disembodied parts seek new hosts to latch onto and control, as seen in David "Zeb" Cook's 1990 adventure module "Vecna Lives!" (and was featured in "Critical Role" — as of 2018, actor Joe Manganiello's game character possessed the Hand of Vecna).

If those origins sound analogous to that of '80s horror movie villains, then you can get a sense of what the Duffers are intending for the "Stranger Things" version of Vecna. As Matt Duffer explains, season 4's "major new threat" is the result of the Brothers wanting "to do our ... version of Freddy Krueger, or, uh, Pinhead, or Pennywise, because those were the monsters ... that terrified us the most when we were growing up." Since the D&D version of Vecna echoes Freddy's origin story involving a man making a play for evil powers who becomes even more powerful after he is murdered, the connection between the "Stranger Things" monster and Freddy wouldn't be a stretch to begin with.

Yet, that connection is strengthened even further by the Duffers' casting of Freddy actor Robert Englund in a major role for the fourth season. Playing someone named Victor Creel (a name that hews very close to Victor Crowley, the killer from the "Hatchet" films, the first of which features a cameo by Englund), the actor was cast by the Brothers in a season that they admit is "so deeply inspired by the 'Nightmare' series and by [Englund's] performance" as Krueger. While the Duffers refuse to elaborate on Creel's role in the season and any possible connection to Vecna, it is curious that the one glimpse of the character from the trailer reveals him to be missing his eyes. Could Victor and Vecna be connected by disembodied parts? Only the new season will tell.

The 'Nightmare' films have more D&D in them than you think

While a comparison between Vecna and Freddy Krueger may seem basic on the surface (especially given Englund's participation in the new season), the Duffer Brothers are undoubtedly aware of the "Elm Street" films having strong fantasy elements in addition to being horror movies. After all, as established right from the first film, Freddy has his own special realm that he brings his victims to, a place where he has full control and all his powers at his disposal. In both "Freddy's Dead" and "New Nightmare," Freddy is explicitly compared to the fantasy version of a witch, an archetype that Vecna also fits into.

The most direct comparison between the "Nightmare" series and D&D can be seen in "A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors." Not only does the film contain a scene where the Freddy-plagued patients at Westin Hills psychiatric hospital play a version of the game, but one of the kids Freddy attacks fashions himself as "the Wizard Master" in order to combat Freddy in the dreamscape. Unfortunately for him, it doesn't work, but the RPG team-style ensemble of "Dream Warriors" are eventually triumphant over the evil dream demon, at least temporarily.

Given such examples, it's clear that there exists a good amount of "Elm Street" DNA in "Stranger Things" already, so the inclusion of the Vecna character and the casting of Englund only makes those connections deeper and stronger. If this much menace can be inferred about Vecna before the season has even debuted, it's safe to say the Hawkins crew are going to need a lot of luck on their side in season 4.