‘Vecna’s Curse’ amplifies the horror

Stranger Things 4 is a real return to form for the Netflix show, which was a little uneven in seasons 2 and 3.

What I’ve seen from season 4 so far is, in my opinion, the best since the very first season — and maybe even scarier. It feels fresh, with tightly woven storytelling and character drama all intertwined with moments of shocking horror and moments of sheer hilarity. I love these characters more than ever.

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Roller Derby Queen

If you look at the above image of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) skating around a vintage 80s roller skating rink, it looks like they are happy and having a great time. But there is a third wheel in the picture. Will (Noah Schnapp) has a pensive look on his face, somewhere between a smile and a shudder.

Will Knows What Mike Doesn’t Know: The Eleven has been bullied mercilessly at her new school, led by the villainous Angela (Elodie Grace Orkin) and her cronies.

When Angela and her entourage show up at the same roller skating rink, we know that El is in bad shape – we’re just not quite prepared for how bad it is.

Before Angela actually shows up, Eleven continues to lie to Mike, telling him that she comes here to parties “all the time” and continuing the charade that Angela is actually her friend and not her tormentor. It’s sad to see and Will is visibly frustrated.

When Angela moves a reluctant Elf away from the table where she sits with Will and Mike, Will finally comes clean and tells Mike that El is having a hard time at school – just in time for him to witness this latest humiliation.

Angela skates Elf to the center of the rink and the DJ puts on the song “Wipeout” to dedicate it to “the snitch,” which is how all the kids now refer to Elf because she didn’t pronounce Angela’s name in school ( although she doesn’t give a fuck in any way either).

They start circling Eleven in the middle of the rink, taunting and mocking her while Mike, shocked, yells at the DJ to turn off the music. He does and just then one of the students curls up and pours a chocolate milkshake over her, causing her to fall and the DJ “Wipeout!” calls.

The entire event is recorded by one of Angela’s henchmen on a video camera. It’s disgusting and horrific and you kind of empathize a little while later when Eleven grabs a roller skate and slams it into Angela’s grubby face. Empathy, of course, but this was still a really bad idea. Throwing a punch would have been a better course of action. Angela’s forehead opens and the blood begins to flow and she begins to whimper.

Of course we feel no sympathy for the bully, but it seems clear that this will come back to haunt Eleven. Mike asks her in shock, ‘What have you done? What have you done?” she flashes back to the massacre in the lab and Dr. Brenner says, “What have you done? What have you done?”

Again, I think this is clearly a harbinger. El’s shame is the door that Vecna ​​- our new Big Bad – can use to reach her and cast his diabolical curse. Here’s how he reached out to Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) on Episode 1, and how he reached out to Fred (Logan Riley Bruner) on this week’s episode. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Dinner of champions

The kids return home after the roller-skating fiasco to find an old friend who cooks risotto: Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman). The next scene serves as some much-needed comedic relief after the horror at the ice rink.

Murray is here because he and Joyce (Winona Ryder) were able to contact the number of the mysterious package she received in Episode 1 containing the doll with the hilarious coded message, which revealed that Hopper was indeed alive. “Proof of life”, as Murray puts it.

Their contact – a Russian guard named Dmitri codenamed Enzo (played by Game of Thrones alumni Tom Wlaschiha, aka Jaqen H’ghar) – wants $40,000 USD and has arranged a drop-off point in Alaska, and contact with a Russian smuggler named Yuri. Still so determined to protect her children, even by deceiving them, Joyce tells them she’s going to Alaska for work for an overnight conference.

This is a detail that her son Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) has a hard time keeping up with thanks to his friend Argyle’s (Eduardo Franco) pot, which they consumed a lot while hitting golf balls in a junkyard while Jonathan expresses concerns about Nancy on Argyle, who jokes: “This is stressing me out and she’s not even my girlfriend!).

Jonathan is flabbergasted and Heaton is convincing, and Joyce – poor naive Joyce – seems totally stunned. It’s a funny joke, but ends with Elf storming off when the roller skating incident occurs.

“I feel like there’s tension,” Murray says. “Was it the risotto?”

“No!” Jonathan and Argyle reassure him. “The risotto is amazing!”

Trouble in Hawkins

Back in Hawkins, Max (Sadie Sink) awakens from a nightmare. Sirens go off and officers appear across Eddie’s caravan. She goes outside to see what’s going on and sees the body through the door. Eddie (Joseph Quinn) and his van are nowhere to be seen.

The police interview Eddie’s Uncle Wayne (Joel Stoffer) and set up a crime scene, yelling at Max if she gets too close.

The news of a dead high school student spreads quickly and people all over town listen to the local news station for updates. So far, the identity of the victim and prime suspect is unknown to all but the police and Max, who tracks down Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and tells him what she saw – as well as the strange flickering of lights and other mysterious happenings. † Neither believes Eddie was the killer.

They go to the video store where they enlist the help of Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke), fill the case and try to track down Eddie before the police reach him by calling all his friends first and then later, thanks to a clever idea from Robin, who looked up rental properties from his drug dealer, Reefer Rick (they don’t have a last name, so they use video rental history to see which Rick seems most likely).

They find a Rick whose rental history includes some Cheech & Chong movies and lives in a secluded lake house, and there they go to see if Eddie is hiding there.

Meanwhile, the agents head to the local party venue: Benny’s old restaurant where El hid for the first time. Here, Lucas (Caleb McLauhglin) experiences his first really bad hangover, puking in a toilet while the rest of the basketball team hangs out. They turn on the TV and see the news about the dead student and someone jokes that it might be Chrissy and that’s why she ghosted Jason (Mason Dye). Not a tasteful joke, even if it wasn’t so dead.

The police interview Jason and make it pretty clear that Chrissy is indeed the victim and that she may have bought drugs from Eddie. Jason exits the building and dashes distraught into the woods. Soon it will be like Ciri in the witch—everyone will be looking for Eddie, from Dustin and his group to the police to the basketball team.

Fortunately, the good guys find Eddie first, right where they thought he would be. After some persuasion, they convince him that they are on his side and that they will believe his story, after experiencing a lot of weird shit themselves in Hawkins.

He tells them what is happening and they connect the dots pretty quickly. The new monster is Vecna, the lich, ‘an undead creature of great strength. A spell caster. A dark wizard.”

As they discuss this reveal, we see Vecna ​​floating in mid-air, attached to some sort of vine or tubing — some sort of charging station perhaps? — and the camera zooms out to show us a rundown mansion in the Upside Down. A haunted house that is almost certainly connected to Hawkins. The dark tower of the lich.

Drop Dead Fred

In the last of our subplots, Nancy (Natalie Dyer) and Fred go to the trailer park where Chrissy died. When they get there, the cop tells them no one is allowed in, but they pose as “nannies” for Max and just want to check her in to make sure she’s okay.

While the cop is talking to them, he suddenly frowns at Fred, “Hey, I know you,” he says. “You killed that boy.”

And suddenly his face turns to a gray and begins to change. Fred has a vision of a car accident, presumably one in which he survived, but the other driver did not. His secret shame. The scar on his face opens and blood begins to seep from it. The policeman’s face is a monstrous, serrated horror.

Then he jumps out and they drive in, Fred visibly shocked but not about to tell Nancy what happened.

They dig. Ask questions of people around the park. Nancy persuades Eddie’s uncle to talk to her and he tells her about Victor Creel, a man who apparently killed his entire family in the late 1950s and is still incarcerated in the insane asylum. It’s a clue, and the only one anyone has so far.

Fred hears the clock while Nancy is talking to Wayne, and he wanders into the woods. Sure enough, he comes across a grandfather clock, laid out like a coffin. There are mourners around it dressed in black, but their faces are twisted and grotesque, zombie-like. “Killer!” they yell at him, and he runs.

When he reaches the street, there is the smoking ruin of the car from his previous accident. He stumbles backwards into a pothole and panics, looking for a way out. But there is no escape from it. “Fred,” comes a dark voice.

He turns around. The well opens into a tunnel and along that tunnel Vecna ​​walks towards him. “Come with me,” he says to the poor child. He puts his clawed fingers on Fred’s face. Fred soars into the air. We see him soaring high above the road as his bones break and his limbs break, while his eyes capsize in his skull. His corpse, broken and bloodied, crashes to the curb below with a sickening crunch.

verdict

Like the season premiere (here’s my recap/review), ‘Vecna’s Curse’ was another excellent episode of Stranger things. This season is, so far, the strongest on this show since its first season. The pace is tight, each subplot is tense and tense, there’s a lot of mystery to keep us guessing and a lot of horror to keep us on the edge of our seats.

I get the distinct feeling that I will be very, very sad when I finish episode 7 and have to wait a whole month for the next two episodes. If the season continues this strong, this could be the best season yet – and I say this as someone who thought season 1 was by far the strongest so far. Season 2 was pretty weak, all in all, and Season 3 – while definitely a step in the right direction – had a lot of annoying things like the constant boyfriend/girlfriend drama, kissing, and Hopper being too angry all the time.

This season just feels like a real return to form with both the action and horror elements chosen and the pace and character arcs masterfully honed. I am very impressed.


I will be posting reruns every day this week here on this blog, so give me a follow if you want to read more. Next one, The monster and the superhero.

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Read my Season 4 reviews at the links below:

If you need a recap of Season 1 – 3, I’ve got you covered.

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