Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo and Priah Ferguson from Stranger Things on What’s Scarier Than the Upside Down

Their characters have endured all kinds of literal horrors, but it’s the metaphorical horrors that are the most terrifying.

Between the demigorgons, the Mind Flayer, and the psychologically and physically deranged Vecna, the Stranger Things kids have a lot to do.

But sometimes it’s not the creepy crawler that’s scary, but the very real – and recognizable – experience of growing pains.

“It’s also the human threats”, Weird stuff star Sadie Sink told news.com.au. “Like being in high school, going through puberty, navigating friendships and relationships.

“That’s what’s really scary about some of these characters. And in season four, it’s sadness and guilt, too. That can be as scary as upside down.”

Sink’s co-star Gaten Matarazzo jumped in: “These characters are just as scared of their first crushes as they are Vecna,” referencing season four’s monstrous villain, who feeds on people’s psychological traumas.

Sink added, “You would think that after seeing a demigorgon they wouldn’t be afraid of anything, but no, they are still afraid of school dances and whether the popular kids like them or not.”

Sink, Matarazzo and Priah Ferguson were in Sydney for a while Weird stuff fan event, where hundreds of screaming devotees greeted the trio in Luna Park, a sign of the Netflix series’ continued cultural dominance.

It’s that mix of ’80s nostalgia, youthful adventure and real horror that evokes such allegiance, and the series rewards its followers with a large ensemble of characters to care about.

“Nothing is really scary to people watching unless they are afraid of something and someone,” explains Matarazzo Weird stuff‘ appeal. “It’s not just being scared all the time. Living in this horror world will mean nothing unless it threatens someone who is loved and cherished and warm and kind.

“That’s where the show really thrives. And it’s true [creators] Matt and Ross [Duffer] have always had their core.”

Given the huge popularity of the series, the young stars know what it means for the fans.

“People are inspired by all of our characters,” said Ferguson, who plays the sassy and smart Erica. “They have said how it has helped them through hard times and even helped them find themselves and feel comfortable with who they are.

“That’s very moving and motivating and helps me to push harder and spread the message more.”

Matarazzo agreed, especially during the past two years of pandemic lockdowns and pressure.

“There are people who have really clung to this show and I understand that,” he said. “There are projects and artworks and work that I’ve felt the same way about. To hear that people can feel something like that just by seeing what we’ve made is really touching.”

The 19-year-old actor and musician, one of the original group from the first season, referred to the Harry Potter stories as art he always returns to, for “the atmosphere of friendship in the face of adversity, and something so grand and so crazy”.

It’s not just fans who have beaten Sink, Matarazzo and Ferguson’s on-screen counterparts. The actors have also looked at their characters.

†[Dustin] has a very carefree way of life, especially in school, and doesn’t really care what other people think,” said Matarazzo. “I think I struggle with that. So that’s something I kind of put into the character because I want to see that in myself.”

Sink also found inspiration in Max’s confidence to be ‘100 percent himself’.

The first seven chapters of Weird stuffThe nine-episode fourth season has just landed on Netflix, with the next two mega-episodes due out in July.

The Duffers have said the show will end after season five, meaning everyone knows the end is near and thoughts are on where their characters might be when the supernatural dust settles.

“I want to scream and ride a demigorgon into the fray,” Matarazzo threw, before Sink jumped in with, “And then Max is right behind him, beating demibats with her skateboard.”

All three agreed that the clever Erica would approach things very differently – according to Matarazzo, “You don’t even need a weapon, you would just roast the shit out of it.”

Then Sink’s clincher: “I think the last episode could just be everyone in group therapy”.

Given the literal, emotional and psychological horrors layered in it Weird stuffit already feels like it’s a collective healing process for its fandom and its stars.

Stranger Things is on Netflix

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