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Vecna's Stranger Things 4 Entrance Would Make Clive Barker Proud

Contains spoilers for "Stranger Things 4: Volume 1," Episode 1, "Chapter One: The Hellfire Club"

"Stranger Things" has always been a product of and heavily influenced by the 1980s, drawing on the power of classic horror and sci-fi movies from that decade, "IT," "The Evil Dead," "Poltergeist," as well as iconic Amblin Entertainment releases like "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." The Duffer brothers have never shied away from this fact. They recently opened up about some of the movies that they were inspired by when going into Season 4, including "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Ross Duffer told IGN in late May that the third film is one of their biggest influences, saying, "It's the most obvious one, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street.' But I have to also say, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors,' which is the third 'Nightmare on Elm Street.'"

It's easy to see how "Dream Warriors" was so influential since the new season features Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, as the disturbed Victor Creel. He's locked up in the Pennhurst Mental Institution for supposedly killing his entire family. Fans will remember that "Dream Warriors" sees Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) get locked up in a psychiatric facility after a particularly upsetting and vicious attack by Freddy. So there's clearly some shared DNA there.

But the main antagonist of the new season, Vecna, has already given fans the heebie-jeebies after his gross design was revealed in the official "Stranger Things 4" trailer released in April 2022, and he's clearly inspired by another legendary horror villain created by Clive Barker — Pinhead (Doug Bradley) from "Hellraiser." But Vecna's first full appearance in the new series is a clear homage to the hell priest.

Vecna revels in suffering

At the end of "Stranger Things 4," Episode 1, "Chapter One: The Hellfire Club," Vecna finally gets his claws on Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) after the fleshy villain stalks her for most of the episode. Although she's physically in the trailer belonging to Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), she's actually trapped in a hellish nightmare version of her own house. Vecna descends from the stairs, squelching with each footstep. Then, he tells the cheerleader, "It's time for your suffering to end," indicating that he feeds on the trauma of the citizens of Hawkins. (Also, calling him creepy would be an understatement.)

This Episode 1 moment feels like it's so obviously a nod to Clive Barker's Pinhead, who famously relishes torturing his victims and berates Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) by saying, "Oh, no tears, please! It's a waste of good suffering!" (via YouTube). In the world of "Hellraiser," Pinhead and the Cenobites' whole motivation is to explore the boundaries of suffering, pain, and pleasure in equal measure. In this way, Vecna acts similarly to Pinhead, stalking his victims slowly before passively attacking them with his powers rather than brutally attacking them like the Demogorgon or the Mind Flayer.

During that same May 2022 IGN interview, Ross Duffer explained the Pinhead influence. He confessed that "Hellraiser" had a huge impact on the duo when they were growing up. Duffer shared, "Pinhead really freaked us out when we were younger. We really want to imbue Vecna with some Pinhead vibes."

It's certainly a change of pace compared to the previous monsters that have terrorized Hawkins in previous seasons. Even so, it'll be interesting to see how Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Co. manage to vanquish Vecna when "Stranger Things 4" Volume 2 arrives on July 1 on Netflix.