Every Easter Egg In Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 5

Alright, Upside-Downers, it's time for another round of "Stranger Things" season 4 Easter egg hunting! Episode 5, "The Nina Project," is chock-full of both overt and sneaky references to pop culture ranging from the goofy fun of "Ghostbusters" to the terrifying thrills of David Fincher's "Seven." While season 4 has been primarily focusing on slashers, the fifth episode explores a wider range of horror and science fiction films with its homages, and to great effect.

After the incredible emotional heights of episode 4, "Dear Billy," the supernatural-fighting forces in Hawkins have realized exactly what kind of monster they're up against, while Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) faces her own demons in her past. And if that wasn't enough, the California crew of Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) are trying to find a way to figure out where Eleven went and have gone on a wild road trip courtesy of Jonathan's new buddy Argyle (Eduardo Franco). This season doesn't slow down for a second, so let's jump right in!

Spoilers for "Stranger Things" season 4, episode 5 ahead.

Freddy's boiler room

After Max (Sadie Sink) escapes the Upside Down and Vecna's lair, she tries drawing what she saw in order to make sense of it. Nancy (Natalie Dyer) starts piecing the drawings together into a haunted house that looks just like Victor Creel's (Robert Englund), which makes sense since he's somehow tied to Vecna. Max explains what she saw in the Upside Down and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) excitedly compares it to "Freddy's boiler room." He's referencing Freddy Krueger, of course, played by Englund in the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" films beginning in 1984.

The Duffers have been very forthright about the connections between Krueger and Vecna, as both feed on terror, though in different ways. Krueger's boiler room is something like the inside of his own mind, and when the first film's hero, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) ends up there, it spells trouble for Freddy. Dustin's explanation of Freddy quickly earns him some dirty looks from Max and Nancy, since young Holly (Anniston Price) is sitting right there and looks pretty frightened. Dustin reassures her that it's all just a movie and not to worry, though the audience knows that the threat to Hawkins is probably far greater than what hit Elm Street, since Vecna doesn't need people to sleep to get them.

She's the firestarter, twisted firestarter

There's almost an entire sub-genre of stories about kids with special powers being trained in top secret government facilities, including the James Cameron series "Dark Angel," James Patterson's "Maximum Ride" books, and, of course, Stephen King's "Firestarter." While some of the earlier segments with Eleven at the facility where she was raised have brought horror anime tropes to mind ("Galerians," anyone?), this episode is pure "Firestarter."

In the novel, which was adapted for film in both 1984 and 2022, a little girl named Charlie develops pyrokinetic (firestarting) powers after her father undergoes an experiment years before. When the government catches up to her, they begin running tests and forcing her to use her powers for their own aims. Earlier seasons of "Stranger Things" have dug into this period in Eleven's life somewhat, but season 4 goes there in a big way and reveals a major King influence. 

Just trade Derry for Hawkins

Speaking of Stephen King, it's hard not to see the similarities between the kids of Hawkins and the kids of Derry, the fictional town in his novel "It." Both are traumatized groups of kids and teens who have grown up in a town possessed by an otherworldly evil, and in episode 5, the Hawkins kids get to explore a spooky old house that's probably some kind of haunted, just like the Derry crew. Pennywise the clown and Vecna the trauma demon have their own similarities, too, including a fondness for spiders

Filmmaker Andy Muschietti turned King's novel into two films, "It" and "It Chapter Two," in 2017 and 2019, and there are some visual ties between the Loser's Club exploring the haunted house and what we get to see in the episode. There are some brilliantly lit shots, including the one above, and the entire sequence pays tribute to haunted house stories of all kinds, but the "It" connection is the most obvious. Finn Wolfhard is probably glad that his character is in California, because he already had to do this bit for "It," where he plays Richie Tozier. 

Who ya gonna call?

After getting into the house, everyone pulls out their flashlights and Steve (Joe Keery) realizes he is woefully unprepared. Dustin teases him about needing to be babysat (which is great, given Steve's designation as eternal babysitter), then tells him to grab a flashlight out of his backpack. Steve obliges and then Dustin drops the bag, where we see his trademark walkie-talkie, some patches from summer camp, and a "Ghostbusters" pin that reads "I've Been Slimed." The guys dressed as the Ghostbusters for Halloween way back in season 2, and Wolfhard was in the 2021 film "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," so "Stranger Things" has plenty of ghost-bustin' ties. The kids are in their own way the ghostbusters of Hawkins, because they've seen it all and stood their ground. When there's demogorgons and mindflayers, who ya gonna call? Dustin and the gang, that's who. They've also been slimed plenty over four seasons, so the pin is doubly funny. 

Eleven's tank

In order to tap into Eleven's mind and re-awaken her powers, the government team put her in a sensory-deprivation tank with strange suit and a cap with nodes on her head. Visually, it looks closest to the precog tanks in Steven Spielberg's 2002 film "Minority Report." The precogs were called such because of their precognitive abilities to see the future, and while Eleven hasn't shown much potential for that, she does have extra-human sensory abilities. The scene also calls to mind the 1980 Ken Russell film "Altered States," about a researcher studying the effect of sensory deprivation on people with schizophrenia. Both are science fiction classics of very different kinds, but they have shared connective tissue in their science-fiction roots. 

What's in the box?!

Meanwhile, the California boys are racing around in Argyle's pizza van. They have a phone number from the government agent that died, and they think that's going to help them find El. They zoom through the desert to a pay phone, with telephone lines in the background, and it's almost identical to the shot from David Fincher's "Seven" in which Brad Pitt's detective character drives out to receive a mysterious package. Thankfully, things go better for the "Stranger Things" guys than they did for Mr. Pitt, but it's so visually similar that it's impossible for Fincher fans to not immediately point at their screens like Leonardo DiCaprio in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." 


When Mike dials the number, he hears a strange response that's similar to what would happen if you called a fax machine. Will grabs the phone and listens, then yells "WarGames!" triumphantly, and explains that they've called a computer. He's referring to the 1983 movie "WarGames," which starred Mathew Broderick as a teenager who accidentally hacks into a military bases' computer and thinks he's playing a video game. The movie has a lot of the same Cold War-era "Russians vs. Americans" tropes as "Stranger Things," and it's a stone-cold '80s classic. Clearly, Will has great taste in movies.

Close encounters of the nerd kind

The lighting in episode 5 is almost a character all its own, both causing moments of tension when Vecna exhibits himself through flashing lights and moments of awe and wonder because light in the darkness can be beautiful. When the crew gather around the lone lit lightbulb and all shine their flashlights up towards it, one of Spielberg's more family-friendly films comes to mind: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." In that film, people on Earth try to communicate with aliens using light and sound, and "Stranger Things" has shown us this season that both light (electricity) and sound (music) transfer through the Upside Down. 

Season 4, part 1 of "Stranger Things" is now streaming on Netflix.