(Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Stranger Things 4” Part 1.)
The monster in “Stranger Things 4” is the stuff of nightmares, literally. Vecna feeds off his victims’ trauma and haunts them with their own darkest thoughts. In order to make those scenes with Vecna even more terrifying, brothers Matt and Ross Duffer decided that they wanted to bring him to life on set with practical effects.
“Once we talked about what the characters were going through and their trauma, that’s when we came up with the idea of Vecna and having more of a sentient monster,” Matt Duffer said at Netflix’s FYC panel on Friday. “As in, a monster that is actually speaking, which we’ve never really had before besides some Mindflayer possession stuff where we dipped our toes into it in previous years.”
Throughout the season’s 13 hours, they estimate that there are only five shots where they used CGI instead. “I would say it’s 95% practical,” Matt said of effects produced physically, without computer-generated imagery or other post-production techniques.
Of course, creating a monster like that is no easy process. The Duffers enlisted Barrie Gower, the mastermind behind the Night King on “Game of Thrones,” as well as the burn victims of “Chernobyl,” to take on the task. According to Matt, Vecna is “the perfect mix of that.”
The actor who plays Vecna (who the brothers didn’t name and we won’t either because major spoilers) had to sit through a prosthetic process that ranged from five to nine hours.
“There was this bit of a drumroll like ‘Vecna is coming to set,'” Ross joked, adding that it paid off because all of the actors’ performances were enhanced by the fact that Vecna was actually standing right in front of them.
“Instead of acting across a tennis ball, or last year it was a beach ball on a stick, to have an actual actor two feet in front of you performing makes a huge difference,” he explained.
Sadie Sink, who shares several scenes with Vecna, agreed that acting alongside the monster in real time made it easier to be convincingly terrified.
“I was nervous reading the scripts,” she said. “I didn’t know how much was going to be practical and how much would be left to my imagination. But, it was all there and, obviously, Vecna, our actor, was incredible and just so convincing and in it.”
“Stranger Things 4” Volume 1 is now streaming on Netflix. Volume 2, which consists of the final two episodes, will drop July 1.