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Stranger Things Season 4: Vecna and the Hidden Message

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Warning: Potential Stranger Things spoilers lie ahead

The Stranger Things Season 4 trailer is here, and it’s left us with a lot to unpack. Of all the images that stand out when watching what’s to come for Netflix’s hit show, two of them have our hearts pumping the hardest. The first is the appearance of Vecna, the seemingly human hybrid who is set to play the villain this season. The second is a secret image hidden within a single frame of the trailer.

What could this villain mean for our Stranger Things friends, and what secret is hiding in the preview? Grab your Farrah Fawcett hairspray and memorize Planck’s constant as we take a look at the series’ newest villain and the mysterious picture lurking in the season preview.

Vecna

Since Netflix released the episode-title teaser back in November 2021, viewers have speculated that Vecna would be this season’s villain as episode two is titled: “Vecna’s Curse.”

By the time the humanoid-looking bad guy first appeared in the trailer, the Duffer Brothers had officially confirmed that, yes, that is Vecna.

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A side-by-side comparison of Vecna from D&D and the villain in the ST4 trailer:

While the ST4 version appears to have played a game of “Got your nose” and lost, the similarities are uncanny, nevertheless. This strays away from previous iterations of Stranger Things’ treatment of D&D characters as many do not typically resemble their namesake.

As Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) explained in season 2, episode 8 of Stranger Things, they only use D&D characters to represent the monster they’re facing:

“Unless you know something that we don’t, this is the best…analogy for understanding whatever…this is”

Given that, examining Dungeons and Dragons’ Vecna and his attributes should reveal at least some of what to expect from the Stranger Things Season 4 malefactor.

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What does D&D say about Vecna?

According to Greyhawk Online, he is considered “one of the greatest villains.” This authority for D&D goes on to explain that Vecna was born human, taught magic by his mother, and then was “a powerful wizard who became a lich”.

(To put it simply: A lich is a type of undead creature.)

Furthermore, Greyhawk Fandom describes Vecna as being “the god of secrets” and influencing the knowledge domain.

Given all these things, it is a fair assumption that the Stranger Things version of Vecna may:

  • Have once been human
  • Possess specific knowledge, especially about the creation, existence, or destruction of the Upside Down
  • Be the most formidable opponent thus far.

Perhaps even more prolific than Vecna himself are his hand and his eye. Powerful artifacts in Dungeons and Dragons, Forgotten Realms Wiki explains that these parts of Vecna each give its user different abilities with the same clause: anyone who would wield this power would “[change their] worldview towards a neutral evil disposition.” Meaning, that this person would essentially turn evil and only look out for their interests with no feelings of guilt or compunction toward anyone who should stand in their way.

Will we see someone working with or under the influence of Stranger Things’ Vecna? Is this the “curse of Vecna” that the titular episode refers to? Moreover, if he was once a mortal…

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Who was Vecna before he was a Stranger Things Monster?

Interestingly, the actor playing this season’s villain is being kept secret for now. This leaves viewers pondering his human identity.

Given the unresolved disappearance of Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) from the show, along with the penultimate episode title: “Papa” (the childhood name Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) had for Brenner), there is speculation that the scientist who started it all may be the new supervillain.

However, viewers have also speculated whether this may be the return of Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) or the transformation of new cast member Victor Creel (Robert Englund). Even the possibility of a resurrection of Barb (Shannon Purser) has been postulated. Only time will tell.  Whomever Vecna may have been; his present form stands to make trouble for our group moving forward.

Hidden Message in ST4 Trailer

There is so much happening in the Season 4 trailer that it is no surprise that the following hidden image snuck right by many viewers.

The image above can be found at the 1:59 mark of the original trailer. Be warned; even at a playback speed of 0.25, it can be difficult to capture.

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YouTube channel New Rockstars highlights the numbers lurking in the image:

When examining the numbers emphasized by red arrows, it is revealed that each number correlates to a moment in the ST4 trailer. The hidden message is revealed when a viewer goes to the time listed and superimposes the hidden image over top. It is then that they will find the white portal for the corresponding timestamp now covers a portion of letters from the original scene.

To exemplify this with another screencap from the New Rockstars video:

Going to the fifty-two-second marker in the original trailer, and superimposing the hidden image on top, reveals that the white portal now covers the word “Hell” on the shirt Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) is wearing.

When this is done with each of the four timecodes, we are left with the jumbled words: “S Master M A I Hell.” When the words are organized by the chronological order of their time codes, the message: “I am Hell’s Master” is revealed.

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This has direct ties to D&D as Hellmaster is a class.

D and D Wiki defines this class as such:
“A hellmaster is a mortal who sold his soul to the dark legions for dark powers. He swiftly [learns] how to use his newfound power and conjure powerful nightmarish abilities.”

Could this be a reference to the ST4 villain Vecna, given his presumable post-mortal status?

While that is yet to be seen, what we do know is that this is only the first part of a puzzle.

When we went to IamHellsMaster.com, we were taken to a countdown with a picture of the clock featured prominently in the trailer. Now that the countdown has ended, we can click Enter, which leads us to a virtual Lite Brite with coordinates and different colored pegs.

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While we can’t give away all the answers, we can say that June 1st promises to be significant.

Although this has all the trimmings of becoming an augmented reality game, ARGNet is hesitant to call it one just yet.

As the penultimate season of Stranger Things gets closer, we are positive about one thing: We wish this was a never-ending story. *Cue Dustin and Suzie vocalization*

A writer by both passion and profession: Tiffany Taylor is a mother of three with a lifelong interest in all things strange or mysterious. Her love for the written word blossomed from her love of horror at a young age because scary stories played an integral role in her childhood. Today, when she isn’t reading, writing, or watching scary movies, Tiffany enjoys cooking, stargazing, and listening to music.

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A VERY HACKENSACK CHRISTMAS: Chucky Season 2 Episode 8 “Chucky Actually” Recap & Review

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He’ll be back. They always come back. And when this show comes back next year…man, I’m getting a serious case of déjà vu!

Jokes aside, I want to thank all my recap readers out there and hope you enjoy this last one until next October rolls around; if you like them, try out the other assorted horror morsels here on Horror Press. But in the meanwhile, let’s get this final festive R&R going!

Following Andy’s execution of the final Chucky, her life flashes before her eyes…yes, HER, because it’s Mixter who’s trapped in there. It’s revealed Charles knocked Dr. Mixter out while Glenda was taking care of Sister Ruth in the Chapel, and that’s when he got his Ade Due Damballa switch in. Chucky’s early Christmas present is a clean slate, with nobody’s knowledge of his continued survival.

Three days before Christmas, Lexy visits N.A. and drops the truth about her addiction to an audience, in which Jake is sitting as her sponsor. It’s revealed everyone ended up getting their 100 hours of community service in following the Incarnate Lord chaos that got the school closed permanently, and Jake is crashing at Chez Cross with Lexy and her family for the holidays (namely so the former Mayor Michelle Cross can exploit the good PR of taking in two orphans at Christmastime; I mean, come on, that’s publicity gold!). I also should have been more suspicious of getting the holiday gift of more Barbara Alyn-Lind in this episode because she is at her peak of playing a perfectly preened and focus test polished scumbag.

Elsewhere, Glenda keeps vigil over a comatose Glen in the hospital, reporting to Tiffany that their condition is only worsening. A desperate Glenda asks her to pull out her Jennifer Tilly persona one last time to smuggle in the Glen/da doll so they can save Glen with another soul transfer. A cop catches them red-handed and Tiff hulk smashes a vase over his head before Glenda gives into the intrusive thoughts and electrocutes the cop’s face into bursting into flames (a tribute to their first flaming kill in Seed of Chucky).

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Question: Is it still a yule log if it’s made of pork?

Unimportant.

What matters is that the transfer goes off without a hitch. Good news: Glen and Glenda are back into one doll, voiced once more by the beloved Billy Boyd! Bad news, both of Lachlan Watson’s physical incarnations in the series are now dead, so we probably won’t get them again unless it’s through flashback. Better news: the new Glen-Glenda composite, now going by G.G., looks so glam! G.G. tells Tiffany they plan to travel the world, mentioning a visit to England before mother and child part ways tearfully.

Jake gifts Devon some podcasting equipment (awkward gift choice), and Devon splashes the cold water on him when he reveals he hasn’t been into it for a while (awkward-er way to receive a gift). As everybody digs into Christmas dinner, the argument over the gift reignites, and they end up addressing their broken relationship. I love that Don Mancini took the season finale to effectively make the show a family drama where a killer doll is running around in the background.

Lexy apologizes to her mother for seeing her as the sole source of her problems, and the two have a surprisingly tender moment where they both admit they made mistakes. At night, the Hackensack Gang also reconcile for letting themselves get lost in the Chucky sauce and, do I even have to say Jake and Devon reconcile again? This is like the tenth time this season.

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Chucky, transferred into you-already-know-its-not-the-last Chucky doll, drops down the chimney with a Santa cap and the world’s quietest chainsaw. Riffing on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” inside as he munches on some cookies and milk as murder fuel, Tiffany arrives outside to get that Belle doll so she can finally transfer back into a plastic soul shell. When she breaks in, Mayor Cross catches a large Jennifer Tilly-shaped mouse stirring, and is enchanted by Tiffany long enough for Chucky to float down from the stairs like a Christmas fairy, bisecting Mayor Cross in the goriest kill of the season, and taking her off the naughty list permanently. Saving the best for last Mancini, I see you!

Tiffany and Chucky get into a verbal spat where he threatens G.G. for “misbehaving,” and Tiffany poises herself to protect the children upstairs. This leaves Chucky open for Lexy to jump down from the top rope—sorry, top of the stairs, and pin the doll. Fueled with rage, Lexy revs up the power tool and chops up seemingly the last Chucky with his chainsaw, while Tiffany runs upstairs and attempts a transfer into Belle. This only gets her a slash to the shoulder and back from Jake and Devon.

For a minute it seems like this is the end of Tiffany as the trio corners her, but if you noticed that I hadn’t mentioned Lexy’s little sister Caroline much in this episode, it’s because she only steps out here. Caroline then forces herself into a hostage situation with Tiffany holding a knife to her throat. She reveals that she’s been Chucky and Tiffany’s real daughter this whole time and has been stringing everyone along, a thought planted into her head by Chucky. Despite the trio’s protests, the sociopath in training flees with Tiffany and the Belle doll, leaving behind a heartbroken Lexy. The kids get taken into their former science teacher Ms. Fairchild’s care, which is good since she immediately believes them about Chucky. Time to get back to hunting Hackensack Gang!

In a 3-week flash forward, Tiffany hides in New York City wearing a very Selene Gallio outfit and being stared at by creepy Caroline. She gets a threatening call from Nica, who expresses her condolences but mentions that the hunt to torture her for everything she did is still on. Which doesn’t threaten Tiff much…until Nica mentions she can see her through a window. Panicking and trying to finalize the ritual to transfer her soul into the Belle doll, Voodoo for Dummies fails her. After all, we all know you can’t transfer your soul into a doll that already has one.

Standing up and wiping off his makeup, Chucky confirms that HE WAS IN THE BELLE DOLL THIS ENTIRE TIME, IN DISGUISE! He approaches Tiffany, ready for vengeance, as she screams. While we’re left to process our emotions, Chucky closes off with a song for the 22 deadly days of Christmas that confirms every kill in the season.

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We’ve been playing checkers.

Chucky has been playing chess.

And Don Mancini has been playing fifth-dimensional mind games with everyone since 1988.

VISUAL HIGHLIGHTS: I wasn’t kidding when I said the big boss saved the best for last with the death of Mayor Michelle Cross. This is potentially the gnarliest kill of the franchise, just for how it’s framed and the absurd levels of gore involved. The fact that it’s followed up with Lexy turning Chucky’s face into cubed cheese with the same chainsaw shows that no matter what threshold you have in mind for how nasty you think Chucky can be as a slasher, chances are it’s not high enough.

PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT: It’s not that I forgot to get everyone on the show presents this year, I just genuinely must give this to the whole ensemble of the Chucky cast. The tonal pivot of this episode and the way many of these characters’ storylines end up, both permanently and temporarily, just forced the whole cast to bring their A-game. From the sweet but not maudlin reunion of Jake and Devon to the parting of Tiffany and GG, down to even the simplest interactions between the entire gang, I don’t think there was an episode with better overall performances.

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QUOTE OF THE EPISODE.

“I feel like…if the public were just reminded of all my charitable endeavors, that, perhaps, they would just make that silly murder charge go away!”

– Tiffany Valentine, on making the most of your charity this holiday season

OVERALL RATING: 9 (Chainsaw Induced Christmas Cleanups)/10. I’d say this is the overall score for the season. Was I less critical of this season in general than my season 1 reviews? Yes, most likely. When you serve up nothing but good television, I just have less to complain about. Learning from all of the mistakes of its previous season, the pacing was tightened up to perfection, and all the intrigue we got was given satisfying payoffs; “Chucky Actually” is the embodiment of all those improvements and the promises of another great season, wrapped up and set under the tree just in time for the holidays.

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THE EXORCISM OF CHARLES LEE RAY: Chucky Season 2 Episode 7 “Goin’ to the Chapel” Recap & Review

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Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world, and in it…lies another perfect hour of television, and another excessively long recap!

The episode opens in a flashback stylized after Curse of Chucky, with Jake (and other key players throughout the episode) in a monochrome confessional booth opposite Father Bryce. While Jake and Nica wallow in self-hatred over being unable to stop Chucky, Andy confesses he’s worried he might lose all purpose if he destroys the doll and isn’t sure who he would be without the little redheaded menace. Glenda confesses that all they wanted was to know who their father was, and now that that trail has gone cold, they feel completely lost.

In the present, Mixter holds a gun on the kids in exchange for Good Chucky. Kyle arrives to stop Mixter, and the two have a standoff. Outnumbered, Mixter makes a deal with the crew: Bryce gets to destroy “Good” Chucky’s spirit in an exorcism, Nica gets to put Nica-Chucky into the doll, and Mixter walks free with this final iteration of Chucky, aka Chucky Prime.

On the road to the exorcism, Tiffany is caught at a diner by her own vanity and flees after being recognized by stray fans. She insists on taking control of the original Tiffany doll body and swapping with Tilly…but not before the car engine burns out, leaving Team Glen stranded in a parking lot. Soon after, a botched escape attempt by Tilly results in the actual real-life Jennifer Tilly dying, getting splattered in doll form by a truck, sending Tiffany into tears.

How many people with the voice of an angel do we have to lose this season?

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As everyone prepares for Hurricane Divine Intervention, Lexy is at the end of her rope and has completely lost all her faith in Jake and Devon’s reassurances. She confronts them with the hard question of whether misery and death are the only things keeping the crew in one piece, and it’s not only an impressive performance by Alyvia Alyn-Lind, but it also brings into question the nature of their relationships in a significant way.

Lexy relapses and takes the temptation of Good Chucky fully, hearing Nadine’s voice before tearing down all her posters and seeing a hallucination of Nadine as an angel. In her last appearance of the season (maybe, there’s still a Christmas episode!) Nadine reassures Lexy that she and everyone else will be okay, and convinces her not to commit suicide by overdose. Sister Ruth, however, wakes the sleeping Lexy and takes her hostage.

Downstairs, Team Glenda officially expands to Team Incarnate Lord (including Jake, Devon, Dr. Mixter, Andy, Kyle, Nica Pierce, Glenda, Father Bryce, Sister Catherine, and DEAR LORD what is this, an Avenger’s line-up?), with all the characters finally united and playing off each other wonderfully. Father Bryce settles on going rogue following his excommunication from the church, you know, on account of telling the Vatican there’s a possessed doll running around. He even gets a cute suiting-up montage, so that’s how you know he’s serious.

It’s then that we get the biggest of all the flashback confessions, surprisingly coming from Father Bryce to Sister Ruth. He confesses that he’s struggled with his sexuality his entire life and has been externalizing some seriously internalized homophobia. Father Bryce made such a standout heel-face turn in such a short time, and it hurts that he really started to grow on me here. Why did it have to be so close to his inevitable death?!

Father Bryce begins the exorcism with the whole Chucky Survivor Support Group at his back, and following a chorus of “the power of Christ compels you” Father Karras style, Charles Lee Ray’s spirit is sent back to Hell!

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…Sorry, did I say Hell? I meant directly into Father Bryce’s body, who he makes violently explode all over the chapel and its inhabitants.

What did we say? It was inevitable!

Following that grisly demise, Nica unveils a new, uncut Damballa chant, and finally rids herself of her father’s presence in her body and mind. A vengeful Jake begins drowning Chucky Prime in burning holy water, but Sister Ruth comes in with Lexy at gunpoint and forces him to give the doll up. Mixter runs, and before Ruth can turn this church to Jonestown, Glenda throw’s Chucky’s very own bowie knife into her eye and kills her. Andy catches up and blow’s Chucky’s jaw off with a few expertly placed shots, forcing Mixter to retreat. Andy finally gets to finish off his long-time nemesis. Temporarily at least, this little rascal will never die.

As Chucky’s final(-ish) doll body burns, the kids watch with worry. Andy and Kyle walk off into an uncertain future together, and we get a heartwarming flashback to the ending of Child’s Play 2. Nica shares a cigarette with Glenda and thanks them for the second chance at life. Tiffany and Glen arrive at the showdown late, and while the twins reunite, a wrathful Nica pulls a gun on Tiffany. Though Valentine begs her to spare the kids from having to see this, Nica takes the shot anyways, and Glen jumps in front of the bullet, trying to save their mother. Tiffany and Glenda drive off with Glen in hopes of saving them while Mixter rides off into the night.

Oh, and we see one last off-screen confession…at some point in the exorcism, Mixter became the true host of Chucky’s spirit, and everything went exactly according to her plan. So much for ending the season on a win.

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PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT: If Father Bryce had been played by anyone else this season (including Michael Theriault), I don’t think they could have pulled off the challenge Devon Sawa did in this episode. His confessional was heartfelt, and painfully explains so much about his character, granting magnitudes of unexpected depth. Though part of me wished this wasn’t all crammed into one episode, the emotional whammy his performance delivers is undeniable.

VISUAL HIGHLIGHT:  All of the special effects in this episode stunned me. From Glenda’s insane knife throw to Father Bryce exploding out of nowhere, to Tilly getting turned into a jelly donut getting smashed at high speeds, this episode was a crunchy, wet, gore-filled special effects fest that would make Childs Play’s 1 through 3 blush with how wild we’ve gotten. But of course, the love has to go to the incredibly lifelike severed, post-explosion Bryce head.

QUOTE OF THE EPISODE:

“You think I’m scared to go to hell?! I’m from Jersey!”
– Chucky, on state pride

OVERALL RATING: 10 (Ooey Gooey Person/Doll Explosions)/10. With a classic scenario as the central set piece of the episode, homage’s-a-plenty to the most legendary horror film of all time, as well as an incredible closer for several characters, “Goin’ To The Chapel” is as close to a perfect episode as can be. From Father Bryce, to Lexy, to Nica, the episode is as much of an emotional thrill ride as it was a visual one. The only question left: how we’re going to top this level of quality, let alone insanity, in the finale?

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