Boasting a cast predominantly of child actors, with a refreshing sense of humor and chemistry, relationship and family drama, and vibrant 80s fashion moments, we tend to forget that Stranger Things is indeed classified as a horror, among other genres. When season one first introduced the scary elements, it worked because we weren’t really yet informed or accustomed to the way things worked in Hawkins and The Upside Down. Due to our familiarity with the characters and the environment, the audience has grown to expect the horror elements, especially since some seasons were influenced by famous horror directors.
The fourth season of Stranger Things surprised us by going back to its origins. Continuing its tribute to 80s horror, the latest season of hit Netflix series explored more of The Upside Down, bringing more characters into its dark dimension, while also diving into its history with the introduction of the big bad, Vecna. As we wait for Stranger Things‘s fifth and final season, let’s take a look at the scariest moments that happened in The Upside Down.
The Duffer Brothers have returned with full power, given how, with the fourth season, they’ve introduced us to the most terrifying monster yet: Vecna / One /Henry Creel (played by Jamie Campbell Bower). As it turns out, Vecna has always been behind the atrocities happening in The Upside Down, which was created with the help of Eleven, who completely erased the memory from her own mind. Immediately within the first episodes in Stranger Things season four, we can see that Vecna is not one to play around with. He finds a victim with enough traumatic memories to fulfill him, dives into their minds, gives them headache,s and at last, snaps their bones and fries their brain from the inside. Our beloved Max (Sadie Sink) was nearly a victim of this cruel death, but managed to escape his clutches and survive with the help of her friends. Although horrifying, it’s become a fan-favorite scene accompanied by the Kate Bush song “Running Up That Hill.”
Stranger Things gave us a grand introduction to what the series had to offer: a few minutes in, we saw a child getting abducted by an unknown entity. Will deserves a break, and it’s been like that ever since 2016. When biking back home from his friend Mike’s house, a Demogorgon appears in the middle of the road. Will panics, skirts off the road, and runs all the way back to his house. Despite his quick reflexes and thinking of locking his door and getting their family shotgun, Will still mysteriously disappears. To this day, the audience isn’t sure if it truly was the Demogorgon who kidnapped the little boy, given how the beasts mainly go after blood.
Barb’s death still holds a grip on us to this day, even though the character appeared on Stranger Things just for a little while. When Nancy wanted to show off in front of her then-boyfriend Steve, Barb was the only one who tried talking her out of it. Despite having her own opinions, she still did her best to support her best friend and her new relationship. Hence why she agreed to go to a boring party, which became her dreadful fate. While Nancy enjoyed her night with Steve, like a good friend, Barb stayed behind and decided to wait for her near the swimming pool with her cut finger. That decision was fatal as the Demogorgon found her, dragged her to The Upside Down, and killed her.
Even though we still haven’t seen The Mind Flayer up close or know its true nature, we know that the idea of it is terrifying and will definitely get explored more in the last season of Stranger Things. After getting rescued from The Upside Down, Will finds out that a part of The Upside Down still lives within him. He starts going to trances when he appears in The Upside Down, and the Mind Flayer hovers over the city as a big shadow monster. The image provided for us is scary enough to make us wonder what the monster will do in the future.
The terror that Winona Ryder managed to portray in the first season of Stranger Things gripped all of our hearts and made us feel the power of a mother. Joyce (Ryder) was determined to do everything to find her son Will and bring him back home. Her clever way of thinking helped her formulate of a way to communicate with her son, whom she believed used the lights to contact her. She hung the Christmas lights all over her house and painted the letters of the alphabet underneath them to provide an easier way for communication. When Will informed her that he’s “right here”, she asked him what she’s supposed to do. The answer was clear: Will told her to run, right before the Demogorgon tried to push its way through the walls.
The whole first season of Stranger Things was focused on finding Will and getting him back to safety. After many attempts of contacting and getting a visual of The Upside Down through Eleven, they end up losing contact with him due to his secret hide-out getting discovered. Joyce and Hopper join forces to enter The Upside Down at their own risk and rescue the boy. What they don’t expect is to find Will connected to the world by slimy vines sucked onto him through his mouth. The imagery was not for the light-hearted, as Hopper was forced to pull the vines out of the boy and revive him from the dead afterwards.
Encountering the Demogorgon for the first time with no knowledge of the creature has to be a traumatizing experience, one that Nancy can tell you all about. Drifting away from Steve due to their differences, Nancy finds solace in Will’s brother Jonathan, whose similar experiences make him the perfect partner to find out what’s really going on. Armed with shotguns and other tools, they decide to go on a hunt into the woods during the night, because why not? They accidentally manage to find a passage to The Upside Down and the courageous Nancy thinks it’s best to enter it. She’s met with a Demogorgon feeding on an animal, before, moments later, noticing her presence. Thankfully, she gets out in time with the help of Jonathan.
Last but not least, we have to mention the gruesome image of Vecna’s collection of dead bodies. When both Max and Eleven get a glimpse of his private space in Stranger Things season four, they’re met with all of his previous victims displayed like an exhibition, sucked onto the vines just as Will was in the first season. It almost looks like a sick grave that Vecna has created for himself in his home. We’ve yet to discover why he’s keeping his victims, but it’s highly likely that it’s for future use.