A 1980s horror icon has made his way unto this season of Stranger Things. Robert Englund, known for his role as charismatic boogeyman Freddy Krueger on Nightmare on Elm Street, appears as Victor Creel, a man blamed for the 1950s murders of his daughter and wife. Creel is adamant that a demon is to blame for the murders and is sent to live in an asylum. During an investigation, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Robin (Maya Hawke) make contact with Creel and, ultimately, find him in a gruesome situation.
In an interview with IGN, Stranger Things creator, writer and director Matt Duffer revealed that Englund approached him and brother Ross with the idea for a guest role:
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“The fact that he came to us in a season that’s so deeply inspired by the Nightmare series and by his performance especially in those movies, it felt like fate. It felt like, ‘okay, this is meant to be.'”
Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy directs the third and fourth episode of each season of Stranger Things. Creel appears in episode four, so Levy worked closely with Englund. In an interview with ET, Levy cites The Silence of the Lambs as the main inspiration behind an important interrogation scene between Nancy, Robin and Creel, but also makes mention of an homage to Krueger’s metal-clawed glove:
“There’s a closeup of [Creel] scratching his fingernails on the desk in his cell. It’s implied that he’s done it for so long that the linoleum desktop is worn away by the scrape of his fingertip.”
Show creators have previously compared Stranger Things villain Vecna to Krueger, too. Vecna, who resides in what the Hawkins teens call the Upside Down, has the ability to attack his victims through mind power, trapping them in nightmarish states. Throughout the series, there have been other notable references to Nightmare on Elm Street, including a recreation of Freddy’s face pushing through a wall, and Nancy, played by Natalie Dyer, sharing the name and similar character traits to Nightmare on Elm Street’s own Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp).
Englund is not the first 1980s pop culture favorite to appear on the Netflix series. Season one featured Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) as Dr. Brenner, season two showed audiences Sean Astin (The Goonies) in the role of Bob, and season three featured Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) as the Mayor of Hawkins.
Stranger Things season four, Volume I is currently streaming on Netflix with Volume II set to premiere on July 1.
The Power of Freddy Krueger
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Despite the horrors that Krueger inflicted on his victim, Englund’s character became one of horror’s most likable villains and a mainstay in pop culture. Krueger is a child predator and killer who is burned alive by parents in Springwood and as a result has burned skin in the afterlife. While Krueger lives in his victim’s dreams, he is able to kill in reality, too.
Since the 1980s, Freddy’s popularity has been attributed to Englund’s charismatic performances. Englund played Freddy Krueger in six main Nightmare on Elm Street films, spinoff film Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, crossover film Freddy Vs. Jason and the TV series Freddy’s Nightmares. Krueger made his way from the screen to toys, books, sneakers, video games and comic books. His recognizable outfit: a dirty red and green sweater, a fedora and a metal-clawed glove remains a popular Halloween costume.