The '90s Thriller Jamie Campbell Bower Referenced When Playing Vecna In Stranger Things

There are major spoilers ahead for "Stranger Things" season 4. If you haven't watched, don't read on, or Vecna will get you.

The entire fourth season of "Stranger Things" is finally out, and while there was a cliffhanger of an ending, we know we're going to be battling the Upside Down in the fifth and final season. We've got a while to wait though, and in the meantime, we're learning more about the inspiration behind the big bad of season 4, the monstrous Vecna

The series is set in the 1980s, and there are a ton of references to classic horror films of that decade, including casting Robert Englund, the star of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," which was also a big influence on the story. However, there was a thriller from 1993 that influenced Jamie Campbell Bower's performance as Vecna/001/Henry Creel. /Film participated in a roundtable interview with Bower for the fourth season, and the character's inspiration went all the way back to his audition. Bower said:

"I was given one set of sides from 'Primal Fear' for the first audition that I had and one set of sides from 'Hellraiser.' I don't know if you know 'Primal Fear,' but obviously the character is presenting two versions of themselves, which actually ultimately end up being ... it's just him, just him alone, f****** around, kind of."

A wolf in sheep's clothing

"Primal Fear" is a perfect as an acting reference here. In that film, Richard Gere plays a lawyer defending a scared 19-year-old kid named Aaron (Edward Norton) who murdered an archbishop after years of sexual abuse. Aaron presents himself as sweet and quiet, and he seems like a frightened rabbit after what he's been through. Later though, the lawyer discovers an angry and aggressive personality inside of Aaron, called Roy, and assumes he has dissociative identity disorder. Later, he finds out that it was all a lie, and that Roy was the real personality. Aaron was a cover, created to throw everyone off the scent.

Bower's orderly at the hospital where Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the other kids are kept, run by Dr. Brenner, seems kind and gentle like Aaron in "Primal Fear." He spends his time quietly helping Eleven deal with her bullies. He encourages her, speaking softly and sweetly to her, trying to win her over. He even tries to help her escape, revealing that he is 001 to her 011. He says he wants to go with her, but she has to take the chip out of him that's keeping him imprisoned. She obliges, and then it's revealed that he's had ulterior motives. He's pure evil. 

We learn that 001 is the grown up version of Henry Creel, a child who tortured animals, had psychic powers, and murdered his whole family. When Eleven tries to stop him, he kills the other kids and almost kills her. She fights back and turns the tables, burning him with her powers, and opening a crack in the world, pushing him through. One could say that she created Vecna, but truly, he's been inside of Creel the entire time, waiting patiently for his moment to strike. 

Primal Fear

Bower continued:

"I took that reference and went with that. So the end of [episode] 7, where we really see Henry for who he is, is always underneath this mask of, 'I'm going to be nice to you. I'm going to be sweet to you because I want to get out of here. You can help me. Can't you? I'm going to f****** win.' It was all underneath there. It was all underneath it."

At the very end of "Primal Fear," you don't wonder for a second if the Roy personality buried the Aaron one. You can clearly see that Roy was the real person behind an Aaron mask. In fact, as Roy says, Aaron was never real. The same goes for Vecna. He was never the kind person he pretended to be in his attempt to convince Eleven to join him and take the world down. He was always Vecna inside, and the Upside Down is the manifestation of the evil that's always been there.

"Stranger Things" season 4 is streaming in its entirety on Netflix.