The Duffer Brothers (‘Stranger Things’ creators): ‘The scariest thing for us was landing the twist’ about Vecna [Exclusive Video Interview]

“We’re starting to peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak,” reveals Ross Duffer, one half of the dynamic duo the Duffer Brothers, the identical twin brothers behind Netflix blockbuster “Stranger Things.”  For our recent webchat with Ross and brother Matt Duffer, Ross teases, “There are a couple more big reveals that we’ve saved for Season 5, knowing that this was going to be the penultimate season, we had to give some of these big ideas away in this season, and that was freeing to be able to do that because before we are almost afraid to do too much besides seeding ideas or hinting at things, because we didn’t want to show our hand too early.” Watch our exclusive video interview with the Duffer Brothers above.

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“Stranger Things” is the immensely popular sci-fi horror drama series created by the Duffer Brothers, who also serve as showrunners alongside Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen. The series is set in the 1980s in the fictional Hawkins, Indiana as mysteries and supernatural events emerge around town. It stars Oscar nominee Winona Ryder (“The Age of Innocence”), David Harbour (Emmy-nominated for his role on the show), Finn Wolfhard, Emmy nominee Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Brett Gelman.

“Stranger Things 4: Volume 1” picks up six months after the events of the third season, as the show’s heroes have scattered across cities after the devastating Battle of Starcourt brought terror and destruction to sleepy small-town Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, the gang are separated for the first time, navigating the complexities of high school while a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces in the form of Upside Down bogeyman Vecna, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down for good. The seven episodes of Volume 1 were Emmy eligible this year, while the remaining two super-sized episodes of “Stranger Things 4,” appropriately called “Stranger Things 4: Volume 2,” debuted on July 1, which is outside this year’s Emmy eligibility window.

The series picked up eight Emmy nominations for 2022, including a fourth consecutive Best Drama Series nomination, adding to the 31 nominations (including six wins) the show has amassed to date. The Duffer Brothers are thrileld with the show’s success, as Season 4 not only smashed viewership records for Netflix, but also scored raves from TV critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, the site’s critical consensus reads, “darker and denser than its predecessors, Stranger Things’ fourth chapter sets the stage for the show’s final season in typically binge-worthy fashion.”

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One of the highlights from Volume 4 was undoubtedly the way in which the show interwove music into its narrative. This was particularly the case with the resurgent success of Kate Bush‘s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill,” which after featuring in the fourth episode of the season (“Chapter Four: Dear Billy”), reemerged as a huge hit worldwide, reaching the top three on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the charts in eight countries, including the United Kingdom for three consecutive weeks and Australia for eight non-consecutive weeks. “Music has always been a big part of the show, and as we were writing and developing 4 with our writers, we were trying to figure out what would save them from Vecna, how they would escape Vecna,” Matt recalls. “We knew that music was a way to communicate between worlds and so and that led to the idea of music being the key. There’s actual science behind it, in terms of it being able to reach people in comas and so forth. That’s what we always like with the show where we can marry what’s very supernatural and fantastical with what is grounded in something real.” Regarding the Kate Bush song, Matt admits that “as cool as that excited as we were by that idea, I didn’t think that Kate Bush would explode among 12 year-olds on TikTok! That’s something you can’t forget. The Kate Bush phenomenon — that’s probably my favorite thing to come out of the season. That made me so excited, how much she popped!”

The other most buzzed-about highlight from last season was arguably in the seventh episode (and Volume 1 season finale), written and directed by the Duffer Brothers entitled “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,” when it is revealed that the orderly at the lab where Eleven (Brown) grew up was actually a grown-up Henry Creel, a.k.a. 001, a.k.a. Vecna himself, played menacingly by British actor Jamie Campbell Bower. Fan reaction to the reveal was overwhelmingly positive, because many simply didn’t see it coming. “That’s the trick with a good twist! A bad twist is, you see it coming from a mile away and a bad twist is also, there’s no way I could have guessed that as that would have been impossible for me. The best twists are, ‘how did I not see that; it was right in front of me!'” Matt says. “I’m really gullible as far as twists, so I’m always shocked. It was a hard thing to gauge and we don’t test the show, there’s no test audience for the show so that was the scariest thing for us was landing the twist. I mean in terms of writing it, and just making sure the directing and Jamie’s performance played into it, that we were showing enough that it didn’t feel like you weren’t providing enough information to guess it, but that also it caught you completely by surprise. That was tricky. We probably spent the most time in the room, working on figuring that out, but we didn’t know if it worked or not until it aired.”

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