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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

“Stranger Things” Cast Weighs in on ‘Elm Street’ Influence, Satanic Panic and High School Horrors of Season 4 [Interview]

A supernatural war is brewing in season four of “Stranger Things.”

It may have been two years since season three, but for the characters, it’s been six months since the Battle of Starcourt brought destruction and terror to Hawkins. A lot has changed as all struggle with the aftermath.

After Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) sold her Hawkins home and uprooted her family to California, our characters are splintered more than ever. The complexities of high school have grown harsher, and a new supernatural threat emerges. One that presents a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down.

Ahead of “Stranger Things” Season Four – Part One release on Netflix on May 27 – Bloody Disgusting participated in a roundtable with the cast. They discussed this season’s horrors, both real and supernatural.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Stranger Things Elm Street influence

STRANGER THINGS. Vecna Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Creators Matt and Ross Duffer wear their ’70s and ’80s cinematic influences on their sleeves with “Stranger Things.” The Duffer Brothers have infused visual nods and references throughout the series, paying tribute to The Evil DeadAlienPoltergeistThe ShiningCarrie, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

A Nightmare on Elm Street, in particular, pops up frequently on “Stranger Things,” from a main character named after its heroine, Nancy Thompson, to Elm Street becoming a meeting spot for the core D&D-playing friends. With the Duffers recently revealing that they hoped to introduce their version of a supernatural villain like Freddy Krueger for Season 4, plus Robert Englund‘s casting for the new season, could we expect “Stranger Things” to fully embrace A Nightmare on Elm Street?

When asked if the film was explicitly discussed for this season, Nancy Wheeler actor Natalia Dyer answered, “It was definitely discussed. I think the brothers are pretty open with their references and their ideas. They love this genre and all of the stories that they draw from. I think they were pretty upfront about this season going off of that film in particular.”

Satanic Panic

Horror often explores heavy metal in the context of the Satanic Panic era. More overlooked is how role-playing games – especially Dungeons & Dragons – were targeted as Satanic cult recruitment tools thought to induce youth to suicide, murder, and Satanic ritual abuse.

Season four puts that in focus, creating trouble for the Hellfire Club, a Dungeons & Dragons Hawkins High School club led by Eddie Munson, played by newcomer Joseph Quinn.

When asked if Quinn researched Satanic Panic for his role, he explained, “I did. Yeah. I think it was brilliant the way that the brothers end it that way for the season. It was a really interesting time. Heavy metal really stands in the face of, I don’t know, American Christian values. It’s a real stark contrast, and I think it must have been crazy with that whole thing. I think it’s explored very brilliantly in this season.”

Steve Harrington actor Joe Keery added, “Bravo to the brothers. I mean, it’s perfect if you think about what they did. I was thinking about that as we watched the first episode last night. What an awesome way to incorporate your character and that whole thing into the show.”

Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) weighed in, “I didn’t really know much about the whole hysteria around Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal and stuff like that. In my head, people who love heavy metal were hard, but it’s just this thing of ‘really hardened.’ You’d think of almost hardened criminals or something like that. Where it’s just, people just like Metallica. People like Megadeth or are nerds and outsiders. You can be both. I don’t know.”

Eduardo Franco, who plays new character Argyle this season, reflects on the hysteria behind Satanic Panic never entirely disappearing: “The whole, ‘Oh, D&D is the Devil.’ I feel I got a glimpse of that social hysteria when I was a kid. It wasn’t in the ’80s, but I remember very vividly when Pokémon hit the streets. I don’t know if it was just where I was from, but parents were saying, ‘Pokémon is from the devil.'”

High School Horror

Long before our favorite characters discover the supernatural threat invading Hawkins, they’re confronted with a very different type of horror grounded in realism: high school. High School has never been more daunting than it is in season four.

That’s reflected throughout most of the cast.

STRANGER THINGS (L to R) Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair and Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

For Caleb McLaughlin’s Lucas Sinclair, he’s stuck between his childhood friends and the basketball team. It creates an intense social conflict. McLaughlin elaborates, “I think it’s very interesting. Lucas has dealt with so much in terms of supernatural events, but now he’s dealing with himself. I feel that because of the separation this season between the group, he’s like, ‘All right, what can I do?’ What happiness can he find? I mean, his world has expanded so much now. He’s just trying to figure out certain things that he can do for himself. I wish I could touch on it a little more to go into depth, but I feel like many people can relate to that. It’s pretty realistic.”

For Sadie Sink, Max begins this season in a very dark place. Sink states, “She’s just feeling lost and in a lot of pain. The way that Max deals with that and has always dealt with that is by shutting herself off and trying to keep it to herself. It’s sad to watch her close herself off from the people in her life that want to help her, but she’s stubborn. Yeah, it was nice to explore that side of her and dig deeper and peel back some of those layers.”

Sink used her experience on another horror film for Max’s arc this season: “I think the physicality of Fear Street helped in getting comfortable with a lot of stunt work and stuff in that realm. Then, I did a movie with Darren Aronofsky that was very dramatic, and I think that helped with the more emotional stuff in this season a lot. Yeah, a lot of it contributed to crafting my performance this year and just getting into the mindset of Max too.”

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Also lost this season is Millie Bobby Brown‘s Eleven, who lost her adoptive dad and her powers at the end of season three. Brown reveals Eleven’s struggle with identity this season, “Without her superpowers, who is she? What does she have? What does she bring to the table? What does she know? The same goes that without Mike, who does she know? And who is she? What does she wear? What’s her style? What’s her voice? What does she believe in? These are all things that I think are nice to explore this season.”

When asked if she finds the Upside Down or high school horrors scarier, Brown doesn’t hesitate, “I think the high school horror because we know it is real.”

Noah Schapp, whose Will steps up as a protective older brother to Eleven this season, quickly adds, “Yeah, that’s traumatizing. The supernatural stuff is all in our head and CGI, but the high school stuff is real, relatable stuff that happens to everyone.”

While season four might be embracing a darker tone and horror in a big way, expect some levity, too. Look for a lot of that to come from Franco’s Argyle. He tells us, “I think Argyle’s bringing an escape from all the crazy horror, drama, and tears. I hope he makes you laugh, cleanse your palate a little bit with some funniness.”


Argyle also brings out a very different side to Jonathan Byers, played by Charlie Heaton

He sets the stage for his character’s more unhinged direction, prodded by buddy Argyle. “The very last thing is we saw Nancy and Jonathan promise that this distance wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, or they promise to each other to stick together. But I think the reality of that in that situation is different. And it’s been six months, and I think where you see Jonathan in the start is he’s dealing with this real relationship. I think it’s putting a lot of doubt in his mind about himself, and he’s spiraling. But he’s got his new friend who’s there for him. He’s listening to him spiral out and freak out, and he’s trying to give him advice where he can and medicate him. It was really fun to have that different energy with Jonathan and play him a bit larger and with the shackles off and a bit unhinged. It was great.”

Stranger Things 4 photos

Volume 2 of “Stranger Things 4” will arrive on Netflix on July 1, 2022.

The post “Stranger Things” Cast Weighs in on ‘Elm Street’ Influence, Satanic Panic and High School Horrors of Season 4 [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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