Stranger Things Season 4 has introduced the Netflix show’s scariest villain yet: Vecna, a tentacled, dream-invading monster hellbent on ripping teenagers limb from limb. But who is he, and why is hunting the locals of Hawkins?
There’s the Demogorgon, the flagship, slimy-toothed beast of Stranger Things. There’s D’art the Demodog, an all-fours version of the former creature introduced in Season 2. There’s the Mind Flayer, the imposing shadow monster looming over the stormy clouds of the Upside Down, before descending upon Starcourt Mall in Season 3.
They’re all child’s play compared to Vecna. He’s the closest pop culture has come to Freddy Krueger, both in terms of his terrifying abilities and harrowing presence in any scene.
Netflix recently released Vol. 1 of Stranger Things’ fourth season, with the first seven episodes setting the stage for an epic, horrific showdown with the big bad. Vol. 2, comprised of the final two episodes (with the last episode running at two-and-a-half hours), will premiere on July 2.
Stranger Things Season 4 spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned…
Vecna’s abilities in Stranger Things Season 4 explained
In the opening episode of Season 4, we’re reintroduced to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and our ragtag group of pals and siblings, now split across the country (and in the case of David Harbour’s Hopper, stuck in Russia).
Meanwhile, we meet some new faces; more specifically Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien), a self-conscious cheerleader who meets a gruesome demise after being terrorized by Vecna for several days. He plunges his hand into her face, and her body rises in the air, before violently contorting; all of her bones break, her jaw dislodges and her eyes are ripped from her skull.
Not dissimilar to Nightmare on Elm Street’s iconic villain, Vecna targets teenagers and uses their fears, anxieties and traumas to torment them. For example, he targets one High-Schooler who feels guilty over the death of his friend in a car crash, putting him in a trance and subjecting him to a ghastly nightmare, before brutally killing him.
His powers mirror his namesake in Dungeons & Dragons. In the game, Vecna is a once-human king who became a lich (an undead being trapped on another plane of existence), and is considered one of its most formidable villains. Players have to contend with paralysis, mind-control and reality-altering powers.
Who is Vecna, and what is his origin story?
The casting of Krueger actor Robert Englund as Victor Creel – a convicted murderer imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for killing his family – has proven to be a sneaky red herring from showrunners the Duffer brothers.
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In a spine-tingling sequence in Episode 7, we learn that Vecna is actually Henry Creel, the son of Victor (portrayed by Raphael Luce when he’s a child, and Jamie Campbell Bower as an adult).
As Henry grew up, he realised he had a host of superhuman abilities; much like Eleven’s only far more natural and stronger than we’ve seen before. He developed his skills by torturing animals and accessing other people’s memories, managing to keep the guise of an ordinary boy as he grew mad with power.
He then moved onto driving his family mad, and after suspecting his mother to be plotting against him, killed her and his sister, before falling into a coma. Meanwhile, Victor was blamed for his family’s deaths and imprisoned, where he gouged his own eyes out.
How Vecna meets Eleven in Season 4
Henry then woke up in Dr. Martin Brenner’s (Matthew Modine) facility, where he became 001 in the same program that’d later ensnare Eleven. Due to his accelerated strength, Brenner implanted a chip in his neck, which weakened and tracked him across the lab.
A few years later, he met Eleven and became her friend and mentor, to the point that he even got her to remove the chip. He then tried to escape, and upon being cornered by security, carried out a massacre throughout the lab.
Henry tried to convince Eleven to join him – you know, world domination, yada yada – but she fights back. In the end, she’s the stronger of the two, seemingly turning him to dust – however, she actually blasted him into the Upside Down, where he transformed into Vecna: the monster at the heart of all the chaos since the beginning of Stranger Things.
Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan Byers, told Metacritic: “Vecna is the puppetmaster of all these monsters, and the Demogorgon is like this wild, rabid dog that was attacking people.
“Vecna is intelligent and smart and gets into your deepest fears and dreams, and he’s part of the mythology of the whole show. He’s our ultimate adversary – or Eleven’s ultimate adversary, at least.”
Vol. 2 of Stranger Things Season 4 arrives on Netflix on July 2.