Stranger Things Season 4's Vecna Risks Ruining Upside Down's Horror

The trailer for Stranger Things 4 has revealed the new villain, Vecna, who will attempt to be a proper successor to the Mind Flayer from season 3. With a much more human appearance than the monsters from previous seasons of Stranger Things, Vecna will no doubt pay homage to classic movie villains like Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. But a more humanoid monster is likely to have much more understandable goals, making him potentially less alien than previous villains.

Monsters in Stranger Things have always been given nicknames based on the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) games which the main characters are shown playing at the very start of season 1. The monster in season 1 was named after the Demogorgon from the game, a powerful foe who goes by the self-proclaimed title, “Prince of Demons.” The monster succeeding the Demogorgon was even more dangerous, nicknamed the Mind Flayer, an eldritch horror that devours the brains of its enemies and enslaves intelligent beings to use as thralls. Following this theme, Vecna is a D&D monster known as a lich, formerly a powerful human wizard, now a dangerous undead sorcerer. The name Vecna belongs to one particularly dangerous lich, also known as the “Undying King.”

Related: How Old The Young Cast Of Stranger Things Will Be When Season 4 Finally Airs

A potential problem with Vecna is that Stranger Things is best known for incomprehensible and otherworldly horror. The monsters shown on-screen are deeply inhuman. Their horror stems from the fact that there’s so much about them which remains unknown. The true purpose behind the actions of the Demogorgon and Mind Flayer was never truly revealed. This lack of knowledge is a vital part of eldritch horror, popularized by authors like Brian Lumley and H.P. Lovecraft, where the fear comes from the unknown – and the unknowable.

Vecna, as the Stranger Things 4 monster, is a good choice in one way, however, but this stems from the same issue. When the horror is about the unknown, it loses its grip once too much is revealed about it. Classic horror movies have often used this same principle. In Alien, the scariest moments were when the crew of the spaceship Nostromo were still unaware of what they were dealing with, and the movie showed only brief glimpses of it. This is why the sequel, Aliens, couldn’t be the same kind of space horror movie, because the creature had become too well known. In the same way, Stranger Things 4 can't use the same monsters from previous seasons. Much like the xenomorph from Alien, a Demogorgon is no longer able to provoke the same kind of fear. Things cease to be frightening once they're brought into the light.

With the scariest parts of Stranger Things no longer causing the same kind of horror they once instilled, the show has two options. It can either introduce something newly incomprehensible, or it can evolve into a different kind of story, leaning towards the action-horror which is also a staple of many vintage horror movies. With the arrival of Vecna, there's a good chance the show may be headed in the latter direction.

Stranger Things is likely to remain as popular as ever, with the same secret recipe of horror movie references, talented actors, 80s nostalgia, and otherworldly terrors that made it so popular in the first place. Unfortunately, though, it’s likely it will never regain the same kind of eldritch horror which made the first season so phenomenal. While it’s hard to be certain until the show airs on May 27, 2022, Vecna’s introduction as the main villain may herald the end of the incomprehensible abominations which made Stranger Things seasons 1-3 so great. This isn’t to say that it will become a bad show, but it’s likely to be different.

Next: Did Stranger Things' Popularity Hurt The Show?



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