The wait is almost over! After three years of absence, Stranger Things returns this Friday on Netflix with a first salvo of five new episodes. Season 4 begins several months after the Season 3 finale, as the Byers have moved on, the gang has entered the cutthroat world of high school, and the friends are about to spend spring break together. Strange new phenomena are taking place in Hawkins… 20 minutes spoke by videoconference with the creators of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer, to discuss this season 4 which promises to be more dense, dark and terrifying than ever!
Your heroes have grown a lot since season 3, what did you want to tell about adolescence in this season 4?
Matt Duffer. It’s one of the coolest aspects of the series, isn’t it? Children are no longer children. They change and grow, which forces the series to evolve. Even if we wanted the series to stay the same, we couldn’t because it would be weird. They head to high school in season 4. In the writing room, we chatted about our experiences in high school. Ross and I hated high school. In fact, most of our writers didn’t have the best experiences in high school. It’s a very trying time for everyone, we grow up and we have to deal with a lot of emotions. For me, that’s when the anxiety, depression, and all those things started showing up. It was a challenge for us, we loved movies and the arts, and we come from a city that was really only interested in sports. So we had a hard time finding our place. We felt lost. We wanted to explore all of that. While middle school was a magical time in a magical environment, we wanted high school to be a challenge for our children. We had the same experiences as them. Some of our friends left us to go hang out with the athletes, it was devastating for us. We wanted to explore this darkness of the real world that accompanies this period. This difficult moment in our life is represented by this new monster. He physically embodies all of this. That’s why we ended up with what is probably the darkest season yet. The children find themselves in a horror movie, because they are in high school.
Robert Englund in the cast, Vecna created by Barrie Gower to whom we owe the Night King of “Game of Thrones”, the haunted house… What was the moodboard for this season 4?
Ross Duffer. We wanted to return to Season 1 with this year’s villain. We wanted a concrete monster on set.
MD A guy in a suit.
DR We wanted something tangible that the actors could interact with. We wanted to film something real, not just a tennis ball in the air. We discussed it a lot. I think the audience can feel something scary. In season 3, we had fun making our big monster movie, way Jurassic Park. There, we wanted to go towards something more psychological, but also to ensure that our monster is physical, something to which we can react and that we can feel.
MD For the actors, it is something more palpable.
DR The monster that Barry created is really scary. I think you can feel it in the eyes of our performers. It was a nod to the villains that scared us the most growing up, like Freddy Krueger. And we were lucky to have Robert Englund in this season!
MD But also Doug Bradley as Pinhead or Tim Curry as Pennywise. These performances really marked us growing up. I couldn’t sleep for weeks after seeing some of them.
DR We really wanted the monster to interact with the cast this season.
MD The goal was to try to recreate what those films made us feel. Now I watched them way too young. We wanted to do this since season 1, we were able to do it this time.
Why did you choose Vecna, from the mythology of Dungeons and Dragons, as the villain of this season 4?
MD The idea of Vecna came very early, it was our first idea in fact. Vecna really defined the season.
DR Completely !
MD We wanted a villain very similar to this kind of horror movies. This season is always funny, we always have the same characters. We wanted to add a darker, more psychological layer of horror. And it fit well with the high school theme. We also wanted to do something different from season 3, our blockbuster season as Ross says. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves, even though it was very fun to do. Kid, I dreamed of doing The Claws of Night. It was our chance to propose our version in the universe of Stranger Things. And it’s a bomb!
DR It is not only a monster movie, but also a psychological movie. When we start dealing with the spirit, we can really do what I like in The Claws of Night Where hellraiser : be really weird. This kind of horror movies, which seemed weird and otherworldly to me, completely stuck with me. And that’s the kind of stuff you can’t forget when you go to bed, and that’s what we wanted for this season.
MD They scared me. I couldn’t look at a picture of Pennywise or Pinhead without getting chills all over my body. We wanted to try this. We wondered how they managed to do that and tried to find out.
The Byers family in California, Hopper in Russia, and the rest of the gang in Hawkins, you have these three storylines, all connected and somehow intertwined…
DR Absolutely !
What does it bring to expand the world of “Stranger Things”?
MD The other big difference this year is that our characters are separated geographically. At the end of season 3, we forced ourselves to leave Hawkins with a large part of our characters. We thought it would allow for an interesting change of pace and exploring how these characters would react in different environments. How Eleven behaves in a high school in California? What would happen to our characters when they are separated? What would happen to Nancy and Jonathan if they were separated? This creates tremendous conflict and introduces funny new dynamics to explore. When we arrive in season 4, we want to take our characters and shake them up. We made it a challenge for them. It creates new drama from a character perspective. It’s also interesting from a plot point of view. Usually Eleven is there to save Hawkins. The plot at Hawkins is scary this year, because Eleven, that girl with superpowers, isn’t there to intervene.
DR You can remove his powers.
MD Not only are her powers gone, but she is not present. So even if she gets them back, they’re still in big trouble. It adds a new flavor to everything happening in Hawkins. In Russia, it’s like we’re doing a completely different series. We shot in Lithuania. The Great Escape is one of our favorite movies. Even though it doesn’t really look like The great Escapewe have always loved escape films. Escape from Alcatraz is also one of our favorite films. We wanted to rub shoulders with this genre. It was nice to shoot with this really different tone. It was nice, for us at least, to explore these different tones. And I think that’s healthy in terms of storytelling, it creates all these new conflicts.