The Horror Sequel Homage That Almost Made It Into Stranger Things 4

"Stranger Things" is no stranger to a cinematic homage. In its early days, the show felt like a mashup between Steven Spielberg hits like "E.T." and Stephen King classics like "Stand By Me." The newest season draws liberally from horror movies, particularly supernatural '80s slashers like "A Nightmare on Elm Street." In a recent roundtable interview I attended with Jamie Campbell Bower, the actor delved deeper into some of this season's monstrous inspirations, and shared his vision for one scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.

Bower, who plays the Upside Down's head monster Vecna along with his previous human self, Henry, revealed that Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" franchise was a go-to source of inspiration for the character. "Vecna is a huge homage to Pinhead," Bower said, referencing the extra-dimensional entity made famous by Doug Bradley. He also pointed out that the character lives in an attic, just like the cenobite-tortured character Frank does in the original 1987 film. 

Bower wanted to dive even further into the "Hellraiser" mythos in season 4, suggesting that the showrunners, the Duffer brothers, pay homage to a scene from 1992's "Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.":

"There were a lot of homages to great horror movies. And there was one that I tried to get in as well ... I don't know if you've seen the third 'Hellraiser' movie, but there is a scene where Pinhead goes into the church and takes out one pin from his head, another pin from his head, puts them in his hands, stands there like this and says, 'I am the way.' And then the church windows blow in."

A Hellraiser reference gone wrong

The actor said he proposed that a particular scene in which Vecna is hovering in the attic could be reshot in order to pay respect to the classic Pinhead moment: "I was like, 'That'd be amazing to pay this homage to this incredible character and this wonderful actor, Doug Bradley." He also shared that, during his attempt to talk the Duffers into shooting the scene, he said that Vecna would look "kind of like Jesus," which would be in line with this season's dark spin on religion.

Bower revealed that the Duffers were on board, but that the visual homage didn't come through as well as he'd hoped: "We did it and it looked like absolute crap," he admitted. They didn't end up using the footage. "They had already said to me, 'Just keep your arms [at] both sides. It's going to look great,'" Bower shared, "and I was like, 'No, no, let me try it, let me try it.' We did it. And it was awful."

Well, you can't win them all. As cool as Vecna is, he's not quite the same type of scary as Pinhead. The Upside Down monster is capable of crushing peoples' heads like walnuts, which would probably make a simple arm raise seem a little anticlimactic. Still, the horror icon was a constant presence on the "Stranger Things" season 4 set. Bower also revealed that one of the Duffer brothers would purposely wear "Hellraiser" T-shirts on days when he worked with the actor.