Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4 Part One.
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If there’s one thing Stranger Things loves, its referencing iconic moments in pop culture history, and Season 4 is no different.
From little Easter eggs, like Dustin wearing a Ghostbusters “I’ve Been Slimed!” button on his backpack, to scenes that draw heavily from some of the most notable horror villains of the ’80s, the Stranger Things crew have a reference for everyone.
“I did not grow up as the horror genre nerd that [Stranger Things creators Ross and Matt Duffer] are,” Levy revealed. “In fact, as a younger audience member, I really didn’t like being scared that much. So, my friendship and now brotherhood with the Duffer brothers has opened my world to horror fluency way beyond what it was.”
Levy directed “Dear Billy”, the episode that set social media on fire and sent Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” running up the iTunes charts. Levy said that he was “thrilled to be in the service of the Duffers’ vision and voice” when he takes on directing duties for the series.
“When I took on my block of episodes this year… [it] for sure [had] those inspirations like Nightmare on Elm Street,” he said. “But also Silence of the Lambs, which is not straight slasher-horror, obviously.”
Rewatching Silence of the Lambs, Levy said, got him “back in the language of tension and suspense and fear-based storytelling that are not jump-scares, but are a more slow-burn dread”.
Levy also name-checked the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the Ken Kesey novel of the same name.
“That was fun, too, just even in the casting of the background patients in their white outfits and haunted faces,” he said. “I really tried to create layers of stuff that is unsettling in a very juicy way.”
All of this — combined with the fact that it’s winter — got us feeling like it was time for a good, old fashioned movie night, based on the classic films that served as inspiration for Season 4 of Stranger Things.
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, John Travolta
Synopsis: Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
Stranger Things connection: Stranger Things Season 4 shows Eleven’s struggle to fit in with her classmates as she adjusts to her life in California with the Byers family. We see Eleven get picked on and bullied by Angela, and at one point, Angela shoves Eleven into the middle of a roller rink. While there’s no pig’s blood in sight, they do douse poor El in a milkshake, and everyone laughs in a scene that echoes the Stephen King classic.
King himself enjoyed the reference, but was annoyed to realise he’d have to wait until July 1 for the second part of Season 4. Relatable, TBH.
The new season of STRANGER THINGS is really cool–as good or better than the previous three. There's even a CARRIE riff.
Is it the whole season or is it another one of those that's broken into 2 parts? IMHO that's kind of lame.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 1, 2022
Where to watch: Watch Carrie on Prime Video
Directed by: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
Synopsis: A woman discovers the newly resurrected, partially formed, body of her brother-in-law. She starts killing for him to revitalise his body so he can escape the demonic beings that are pursuing him after he escaped their sadistic underworld.
Stranger Things connection: Pinhead is one of the ’80s most iconic horror villains, and he shares quite a few things in common with Vecna.
For starters, they both used to be human, before being physically mangled as they entered a spiritual realm. Then, there’s also the voice. Vecna’s booming, ominous tones bear a striking resemblance to Pinhead’s.
Where to watch: Watch Hellraiser on Prime Video
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Synopsis: Teenager Nancy Thompson must uncover the dark truth concealed by her parents after she and her friends become targets of the spirit of a serial killer with a bladed glove in their dreams, in which if they die, it kills them in real life.
Stranger Things connection: There are a lot of similarities between Stranger Things‘ new baddie, Vecna, and Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger. There’s the disturbing visions, the way Vecna gets into his victims’ minds and taunts them before killing them.
There’s also the fact that the Duffers cast Robert Englund — Freddy Krueger himself — as Victor Creel, father to Henry Creel, who went on to become One, before eventually evolving into Vecna. Nothing says “we’re paying tribute to Freddy Krueger” like casting the same actor as the character’s father, right?!
Where to watch: Watch A Nightmare on Elm Street on Stan
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Directed by: Milos Forman
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman
Synopsis: A criminal pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, where he rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.
Stranger Things connection: As Levy stated above, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was one of the many influences that Stranger Things drew on when it came time to shoot the scenes at Pennhurst Asylum.
Where to watch: Rent One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Apple TV
The Ring (2002)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox
Synopsis: A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it
Stranger Things connection: Although Stranger Things usually draws from ’80s pop culture, we couldn’t help but notice that Vecna’s curse — much like Samara’s — lasts for about a week, during which time thing get increasingly hectic for the soon-to-be victim.
Then, there’s the way Vecna’s leaves his victims with an endless scream frozen on their faces, just like we see Katie in The Ring during the terrifying, and infamous, cupboard jumpscare.
Where to watch: Watch The Ring on Prime Video
Silence of the Lambs
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Lawrence A. Bonney
Synopsis: A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.
Stranger Things connection: Robin and Nancy’s visit to Victor Creel is very reminiscent of Clarice’s first meeting with Hannibal Lector when she goes to meet him in the asylum.
Where to watch: Watch The Silence of the Lambs on Prime Video
Want more Stranger Things? Check out these stories below:
- The ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 Soundtrack Is Everything You Want and More
- Stranger Things Season 4: Everything You Need to Know About Vecna
- 5 ‘Stranger Things’ Theories for Season 4, Part 2 and Beyond