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These Alternate Designs For Stranger Things 4's Vecna Are Absolute Nightmare Fuel

On the Netflix-breaking fourth season of "Stranger Things," the unfortunate residents of Hawkins are terrorized by the newly-introduced master of the Upside Down, whom the kids rapidly title Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). This burned and beastly predator was once Henry Creel — and is also One, the first experimental subject of Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) — and it is revealed that he has been pulling the strings from the beginning. This is shown to viewers via flashbacks, where we see that a young Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) once used her powers to banish One from our world, where he discovered and took over the Mind Flayer, Demogorgons, and all of the other terrors seen throughout the series. 

When it came time to create the appearance and personality of the ultimate "Stranger Things" villain, the Duffer Brothers drew from several classic horror films, including "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Hellraiser," to build a monster out of gruesome prosthetic effects instead of CGI (per IGN). Given the fact that Vecna's prosthetics were handled by Barrie Gower, who was instrumental in the final look of the Night King (Richard Brake, Vladimir Furdik) on HBO's "Game of Thrones," there was also some White Walker influence.

The final Vecna product, a smorgasbord of film and TV's creepiest characters, surely induced some fear among viewers. However, some of the earlier designs for Vecna were no less horrifying — and at least a few, arguably, may have been so scary on-screen that even Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" wouldn't have worked as an escape plan.

Vecna almost had shedding skin, bloody tears, and spikes

On July 10, 2022, Michael Maher Jr., a concept artist for "Stranger Things," took to his Twitter and Instagram to unveil a handful of alternative designs for Vecna that are the actual stuff of nightmares. A truly gory draft of Vecna featured rotting skin that would drop off his body in patches, a result of living in the toxic Upside Down for so many years. "One version had it hanging from his jaw," explained Maher. "Another had skin melted over his eyes, and when his powers were used, he would cry blood." Other versions were even more Night King-esque than the finished product, with Vecna sporting spikes on his body.

While Vecna's final design has proven immensely popular, several users on Reddit expressed their wish that one of these versions was chosen instead. U/generation_D said, "My one complaint with Vecna is he wasn't as scary looking as I'd have liked." U/DrPocoyo added, "I initially thought he was scary, and then we saw his Grinch like body and I was like... really..."

There's a pivotal reason that the design team steered in a more human direction, however. Though these Vecna designs surely would've increased Season 4's horror factor, they also would've required more special effects, something the creators didn't want for this character. As Maher explained, "Vecna needed to be expressive, so the designs didn't make the cut." Indeed, videos have gone viral of Jamie Campbell Bower's lengthy behind-the-scenes transformation into Vecna, which the Duffer Brothers revealed to IGN is 90 percent practical. As Ross said, the desire was to create a villain that could actually walk around on set, thus creating a more physically scary presence for actors to react to. Given Vecna's fame thus far, it seems that they succeeded.