Vecna On Stranger Things Took Inspiration From Another Prestige TV Villain

There are spoilers ahead for "Stranger Things" season 4. That should be a given, but just in case, we're talking about something that happens at the end of the available episodes. You've been warned. 

This has got to be the scariest season of the Netflix series, and a big part of that is Vecna. This super creepy monster is based on a Dungeons & Dragons monster that started out as a man who became an undead lich. Knowing about this monster may have given some D&D players a clue about who Vecna used to be, but despite knowing a lot about him and guessing that he was originally a human, I absolutely did not figure out who it was. The scariest part of all of it was that One (Jamie Campbell Bower) was able to mask his intentions and his cruelty in the flashbacks. He genuinely seemed like he was reaching out to a potential friend or co-conspirator when he tried to recruit Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) like the Emperor (with a similar look, honestly) tries to recruit Luke Skywalker in "Return of the Jedi." 

Monster skin issues

Variety spoke to Barrie Gower, the head of the prosthetic makeup company BGFX who created the creature effects for Vecna, and there was a good reason BGFX was chosen for the gig. Gower won three Emmys for his work on "Game of Thrones," including his work on the Night King. You can see the similarity in their features, though they're completely different monsters.

In the interview, which goes deep into the actual process of creating the "Stranger Things" prosthetics and how Campbell Bower was a part of it all, we learn that the Duffer Brothers were fans of Gower's "Game of Thrones" work. Gower said, "With season four, they were after a new, big iconic villain. They decided that they wanted their own version of the Night King, an iconic figure, and they thought 'Well, why don't we just contact the guys who made the Night King?'"

The unsettling undead

The similarities between Vecna and the Night King don't end at their grisly appearances, so it makes total sense that the Duffers wanted to bring the BGFX team to create their undead hero. The Night King, portrayed by Richard Brake in seasons 4 and 5 and by Vladimír Furdík in seasons 6 and 7, is very lich-like, inspired by many of the same high fantasy concepts as Vecna. Both Vecna and the Night King are men who were once mortal but became something much more sinister. Ironically, both of them were doomed to their fates by powerful, magical children, as The Night King was created by the fairy-like Children of the Forest, while Vecna was pushed into the Upside Down by a young Eleven.

Both characters are also consumed by their need for revenge. They set out to crush whoever gets in their way in order to create a new world in their image, which in both cases is not great for the humans involved.

After seeing the incredible work BGFX did on the Night King, allowing him plenty of facial expression despite intense prosthetic makeup, it would almost be foolish not to have the same team work on turning Campbell Bower into something much scarier.

Man or monster?

It seems like a great idea, and it obviously worked. Vecna is terrifying, and now that we know he was once One, you can see it in his face. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. 

Vecna was designed by "Stranger Things" senior concept illustrator Michael Maher Jr. and was based on Freddy Kruger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Very fitting, considering that One's father, Victor Creel, is played by the original Freddy, Robert Englund. The plan was to have Vecna be almost completely practical in terms of effects, so a team of 15 to 20 people, according to the site, created a full body cast from Campbell Bower, then an entire body sculpt. (The Night King was largely head and shoulders.) Gower said this was "the most extensive sized prosthetic makeup" they've ever done at the company, which consisted of 24 or 25 pieces. Add to that the fact that Campbell Bower did most of his own stunts, and it's all a lot.

Having had prosthetic makeup applied to myself and applying it to others (my former job was as a makeup artist), I can tell you that it's a rough gig. Prosthetics are hot and itchy, and they're very claustrophobic to be in. Kudos go to not only the makeup team, but Campbell Bower working under all of this.

No one let Arya near Vecna ... or actually, maybe you should. 

"Stranger Things" season 4 vol. 1 is currently available in its entirety on Netflix.