Stranger Things Season 4 Is All About Slashers

"Stranger Things" is a master class in paying homage to ones influences. The show's creators, the Duffer Brothers, are children of the '80s through and through, and their hit Netflix series never shies away from making direct nods to their creative references.

In approaching "Stranger Things" season 4, they wanted to return even more closely to the source material that first inspired them to enter the horror genre.

Warning: Spoilers for "Stranger Things" season 4 follow. Beware!

Scream, Friday the 13th, and the teen slasher

Season 4 finds the Hawkins kids in their first year of high school, and the creators waste no time in making reference to teen slasher films like "Friday the 13th" (1980) and "Scream" (1996). Classic high school archetypes from the popular cheerleader to the school newspaper nerd are introduced only to be killed off. Just like "Scream" makes direct reference to the horror films that it draws inspiration from, so too does "Stranger Things." These nods to "Scream" and its predecessors are a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the derivative nature of the series, just as "Scream" made ironic use of horror cliches.

At Hawkins High School, the boys have all joined a new D&D group called "The Hellfire Club" run by a group of outcast upperclassmen. Through super-senior Eddie Munson's campaign, a new villain is introduced into the fold: Vecna, an intelligent demon that preys on the minds of its victims, visiting them with nightmares and hallucinations before mutilating them.

Vecna is the Duffer Brothers' Freddy Kreuger

Vecna's powers and character design are very clearly inspired by Freddy Krueger from the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" series. Freddy Krueger was a factory worker that died in a fire and haunts the dreams of his victims. Robert Englund, who played Freddy in the classic horror film series, even joined the "Stranger Things" 4 cast as a nod to this source material.

When characters find their way into Vecna's dream landscape under his trance, they are brutally murdered both in their hallucinations and in real life. The same goes for those killed by Freddy Krueger. Just like the boiler room where Freddy Krueger died, Vecna has a specific house connected to a past trauma that serves as his base of operations. Dustin even points out this comparison directly.

The "Nightmare" series is far from the only slasher that inspired the Duffer Brothers in season 4. They had "always wanted to do our ... version of a Freddy Krueger, or a Pinhead, or a Pennywise," the creators told IGN. These monsters with the power to unhinge their victims were the "supernatural villains that terrified us the most when we growing up" and were direct inspirations for Vecna.

Pinhead and Pennywise were also inspirations

Pinhead is the villain of the "Hellraiser" series, a demon from a Hell dimension much like the Upside Down. He is deeply sadistic with a penchant for ominous one-liners. The Duffer Brothers looked to Pinhead when writing Vecna's dialogue, so many of Vecna's lines "sound like something Pinhead would say." Pinhead tortures people by appearing to them as their loved ones, which he accomplishes by stealing their skin. Similarly, Vecna takes the form of people close to his victims in order to terrify and alienate them.

The "It" film series also bears a few similarities to "Stranger Things" 4. Earlier seasons of the show were obviously influenced by Stephen King's story, given that a supernatural mystery is solved by a group of children. As an ominous and intelligent threat that lived under the ground of an otherwise peaceful town, Pennywise was a clear point of reference for Vecna in particular. Pennywise also has a specific connection to a certain house, just like Vecna does.

Victor Creel was pulled straight out of a slasher

Along with Vecna, another character is introduced in Season 4 — Victor Creel, played by Robert Englund. Creel is locked away in a mental institution after being blamed for the brutal murder of his family, committed by Vecna. In hopes of learning some clue as to how to defeat Vecna, Nancy and Robin visit Victor at the mental institution in a scene that closely echoes Clarice's interview of notorious serial killer Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991). The characters are incredibly different, but the suspenseful camera movements leading the girls to Creel's cell are reminiscent of the 1991 film.

Creel reluctantly reveals his backstory to the girls, explaining that he unwittingly moved his family into a haunted house. His story, which culminates in a paranormal massacre where only he is left alive, is a nod to the haunted house classic "The Amityville Horror." In the 1979 slasher, a young family moves into a new home where, one year earlier, a man murdered his entire family. The supernatural activity in this film is also tied to satanic worship, just as the murders committed by Vecna are attributed to the supposed satanic worship of Eddie Munson and The Hellfire Club.

By combining references to these horror fan favorites, the Duffer Brothers saturate "Stranger Things" 4 with Easter eggs and genre-mashed storylines that are sure to make this season the most exciting yet.