Though the series has had its fair share of ups and downs in previous seasons, the hype for Stranger Things’ upcoming fourth season, or at the least the first part of it, is very real. With some of the cast having left Hawkins, Indiana for California or wound up mysteriously in Russia, it’s only matter of time before everyone reunites to deal with the big new evil that threatens the world unless they can put an end to it.
For this new season, the new antagonist is Vecna, a powerful godlike Lich from Dungeons & Dragons. Throughout the series, Stranger Things has had no trouble referencing the popular TTRPG, and it’s playing a key role in this new season through Vecna and newcomer Eddie, a D&D nerd played by Joseph Quinn. Previously, the Duffer Brothers hyped Vecna up as a much scarier entity compared to the Demogorgons of seasons past, and at the season’s premiere party last night, the cast went even further in building up Vecna’s threat. David Harbour, who plays sheriff turned surrogate dad Hopper, described him to Variety as a different breed of horror for the series, and even went so far as to call him the overall big bad that the series has needed.
“The Upside Down has been this wild west world where there are creatures running around,” acknowledged Harbour, “but we’ve never seen something as calculatedly psychologically evil as this…Vecna is a psychological horror that I don’t think we’ve really seen.” While Hopper won’t be dealing with the lich directly, that presence of evil will be felt as he fights a Demogorgon that’s taken over a Russian prison.
Owing to the character’s supposed terror is that he’s brought to life using mostly practical effects. Back in April, Ross Duffer stressed the importance of practical effects for the actors to really sell their terror, and the character’s look comes from prosthetic artist Barrie Gower, who previously worked on the Night King for HBO’s Game of Thrones. “It’s unparalleled,” said Joe Kerry, who plays Steve on the show. As a fan of old horror movies and practical effects, he was very into a real deal Vecna to play off of during filming. “There aren’t other people that are doing similar things to this, so as the fan in me, I was just freaking out.”
Both Priah Ferguson and Gaten Matarazzo, who respectively play Erica Sinclar and Dustin Henderson, promised that Vecna’s debut would shake up the tone of the series. “Vecna’s very scary, and it’s something that messes with your mind,” said Ferguson. Added Matarazzo, “He brings a whole new vibe to how we deal with our villains, and how we’ll continue to do so going forward.”
The first part of Stranger Things’ fourth season will hit Netflix on May 27, with part two releasing on July 1.
Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.