Stranger Things 4 effects team talk us through creating Vecna, from concept to final form

Vecna in Stranger Things 4
(Image credit: Netflix)

Vecna came and conquered in Stranger Things season 4, the villain instantly entering the pop-culture conscience upon his terrifying arrival. But how, exactly, was the twisted character created? In the new issue of SFX magazine, featuring Andor on the cover, Barrie Gower of the award-winning UK effects house BGFX talks us through how Vecna went from page to screen. Here's a snippet of that feature.

Barrie Gower: The Duffer Brothers already had a blueprint for Vecna; they had the outline of the series written. They had some art already drawn up by an incredible concept artist called Michael Mayer, who is also the VFX supervisor. It was always going to be this humanoid character – they were very keen from the get-go to have somebody who had almost fully practical presence. They wanted somebody in prosthetics.

The storyline and tone of season 4 was starting to become a little bit more mature; there are more nods towards the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. Their idea really was, in the latter few seasons, to have their own iconic villain. There are a few nuances, a few adjustments we had to make along the way to fit it over the human form. But it’s pretty close to those original concept images.

We broadened part of the head at one point to scale the body slightly differently. The original Vecna design was a little sleeker and longer. We changed some of the forms slightly to lengthen here and there. The left hand, as per the original concept, always had these incredibly long fingers. They were almost one and a half feet long. We built these finger extensions inside the glove which accommodate that length.

It just didn’t work: the fingers were bending, and it started to look a bit comical. About two weeks before the final make-up test, we remade the glove, reduced the fingers several inches, so that there’s still a good eight to 10 inches long. But that was quite late in the build.

We went out to Atlanta for the final make-up test in November of 2020, with the intention of doing our first shoot day only about three or four days later. So we were hoping, "Oh my god, I hope they approve this." People were apprehensive. Jamie [Campbell Bower] stepped on set [of Vecna’s attic in the Creel house] and there were gasps and the Duffers just came over and they were very appreciative and congratulatory. Jamie did some dialogue and it was incredible. I think, from what Jamie said, that was the first time that the Duffer Brothers had also heard his voice properly in character.

That's just a snippet of the long-read, available in the Andor issue of SFX Magazine, available on newsstands now! For even more from SFX, sign up to the newsletter, sending all the latest exclusives straight to your inbox.

I'm the Editor of SFX, the world's number one sci-fi, fantasy and horror magazine – available digitally and in print every four weeks since 1995. I've been editing magazines, and writing for numerous publications since before the Time War. Obviously SFX is the best one. I knew being a geek would work out fine.